North Korea rocket breaks up in flight
Officials from the United States and the United Nations say the U.N. Security Council will meet Friday to discuss North Korea's botched long-range missile launch -- an act U.N. officials called deplorable and destabilizing despite its failure.

Amid concerns that North Korea will try to recover from the embarrassing failure with a nuclear test or military move, a spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned the secretive country's regime not to "undertake further provocative actions that will heighten tension in the region."

The missile launch was heralded by North Korea as "an inspiring deed and an event of historic significance." The missile broke apart shortly after launch Friday morning, then fell into the ocean.

North Korea said the missile was designed to carry an observation satellite into orbit. But the United States, South Korea and Japan said that was a cover for a long-range ballistic missile test.

The launch drew condemnation from United States and countries in the region, as well as an unusual admission of failure from Pyongyang. The normally secretive regime has previously insisted that failed launches had actually been successful.

"Scientists, technicians and experts are now looking into the cause of the failure," North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency said in a report, which was also read out in a news broadcast on state-run television.

North Korea had made much of the launch, which coincided with celebrations surrounding the 100th anniversary of the birth of its late founding leader, Kim Il-sung.

The regime had invited journalists and space experts from around the world to view the launch pad and the purported satellite.

A recent South Korean intelligence report noted that the two previous rocket launches that Pyongyang said were intended to put satellites into orbit were followed a few weeks or months later by nuclear tests.

"Often when they've had failures of this kind, they reach into their bag and find other things to do," said Christopher Hill, a former lead U.S. negotiator at talks over the North Korean nuclear program who now teaches at the University of Denver. "And so I would be concerned about the potential of an actual nuclear test coming up."

The rocket took off at 7:38 a.m. on Friday. It broke into two parts after about two minutes, according to the South Korean Defense Ministry.

About six minutes later, the two sections of the rocket separated into smaller pieces, which dropped into the sea, the ministry said.

The North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command officials also tracked the missile.

"Initial indications are that the first stage of the missile fell into the sea 165 km west of Seoul, South Korea," they said in a news release. "The remaining stages were assessed to have failed and no debris fell on land. At no time were the missile or the resultant debris a threat."

The debris is spread over an area about 20 kilometers (12 miles) long, said Kim Kwan-jin, the South Korean defense minister.

South Korea, which has criticized the launch as a "grave provocation," said it was searching the waters near where the rocket fell for debris -- a chance to gain insights into the North's technology.

The South Korean military was "fortifying its stance," said a spokesman for the South Korean Defense Ministry.

A U.S. official said that, despite the launch's failure, "it will not change our response."

The White House press secretary, in a statement, said that North Korea's failed launch "threatens regional security, violates international law and contravenes its own recent commitments."

The statement added, "North Korea is only further isolating itself by engaging in provocative acts."