The U.S. and its allies called the attempted launch a potential pretext for developing an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that might one day carry a nuclear warhead.
There was just one major problem, however.
North Korea failed. Badly.
In what has to be considered a major embarrassment to the North and its young new leader, the rocket disintegrated moments after the launching, and American and Japanese officials said its remnants fell harmlessly into the sea.
Officials from Japan, South Korea, and the U.S. condemned the attempted launch as a belligerent act that endangered regional stability, despite the fact that it failed miserably.
American officials said food aid that it had planned to send to North Korea to help feed its hungry population would be suspended.
Brilliant move, North Korea.
“North Korea is only further isolating itself by engaging in provocative acts, and is wasting its money on weapons and propaganda displays while the North Korean people go hungry,” said White House press secretary, Jay Carney. The United States, Carney said, “remains vigilant in the face of North Korean provocations and is fully committed to the security of our allies in the region.”
A senior White House official said that the failure of the rocket would likely hinder North Korea’s effort to sell weapons to other countries. It also validated the effectiveness of the sanctions in place on North Korea, as those measures have deprived the country of access to metals and other technical components necessary for a viable missile program.
Hours after the massive failure, there was still no word from North Korea.
“Obviously, the rocket launch is pretty embarrassing for Kim Jung-un and North Korea,” said Tate Nurkin, a director at Jane’s Strategic Advisory Service, in an e-mailed reaction. “North Korea is all about ceremony and stature and grand, symbolic gestures.”
The rocket, called the Unha-3, blasted off from the Soehae launching site near North Korea’s western border with China, about 7:40 a.m., the South Korean Defense Ministry said.
More in the video below.