N. Korea admits failure

North Korea admitted Friday that its Kwangmyongsong-3 satellite failed to enter orbit.

"Scientists, technicians and experts are now looking into the cause of the failure," the North's official Korean Central News Agency said in a brief dispatch, without elaborating.

It was the first time Pyongyang acknowledged failure in a long-range rocket launch.

The announcement came more than four hours after North Korea went ahead with the launch of a long-range rocket early Friday morning, despite repeated warnings from the international community.

The South Korean Defense Ministry said the rocket exploded into about 20 pieces over the West Sea between one and two minutes after takeoff.

It said the Aegis-equipped Sejong the Great destroyer had been deployed to the West Sea to monitor the rocket's launch and track its path.

Debris from the rocket appears to have fallen in waters about 100-150 kilometers off South Korea's western port city of Gunsan, before the separation of its first and second stages, ministry officials said.

The military began scouring the area, which is within South Korea's exclusive economic zone, to recover debris.

Pyongyang had planned the launch in celebration of the centenary of its late founder Kim Il-sung's birth on Sunday.

The US and its allies said in one voice on Friday that the launch clearly violated UN Security Council Resolution 1874 banning ballistic missile technology.

Pyongyang's testing of long-range missile technology through a satellite launch began in 1998 when it launched Kwangmyongsong-1 from the Musudan-ri facility using a Paektusan rocket, which failed.

The North launched Kwangmyongsong-2 in 2009, also a failure.

The rocket launch on Friday raises the possibility of a third nuclear test in the North, analysts said.

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