Get a Hartford Courant subscription for less than 29 cents per day

North Korea

S. Korea: North blew up rocket stage to confound analysts

Minutes after North Korea launched its rocket, South Korea's navy detected a rain of fragments falling into the sea and then a sooner-than-expected disappearance of the rocket from their radar, suggesting a possible failure. News outlets working in real time jumped on the idea. But it quickly proved wrong.

South Korean officials and foreign analysts say they now believe the first stage of the rocket had a cagey new feature: It was deliberately rigged to blow up after separation Sunday, for the express purpose of confounding foreign analysts.

While government leaders around the world are trying to figure out how to punish North Korea for its rocket launch, the U.S.,...