At 7:39 am Korean time, North Korea launched a rocket it said would place a satellite in orbit, according to Yonhap news.
In advance of the launch, the gesture was seen as a direct threat to Japan. The US has said the launch would draw immediate punitive measures.
Along with South Korea, the countries had seen the launch as an attempt to further the North's threatening military capabilities.
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However, early Friday, North Korean state media acknowledged what the US and other countries had clamed hours earlier — that the satellite had failed to enter orbit, the Associated Press reported.
And a TV broadcast interrupted regular programming to inform the North Korean public that the satellite did not enter orbit.
"The DPRK launched its first application satellite Kwangmyongsong-3 at the Sohae Satellite Launching Station in Cholsan County, North Phyongan Province at 07:38:55 am on Friday," Britain's Daily Telegraph quoted a female newsreader on North Korea's state-television KRT as saying.
"The earth observation satellite failed to enter its preset orbit. Scientists, technicians and experts are now looking into the cause of the failure."
Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr, meanwhile, appearing on CNN, cited US Defense Department officials as saying the rocket launch had been a failure.
It "may have fallen apart," she quoted an unnamed official as saying.
Yonhap news quoted Japanese Defense Minster Naoki Tanaka as telling reporters in Tokyo that the rocket had fallen into the ocean just one minute after takeoff and had not entered Japanese air space or territorial waters.
Japan had vowed to shoot down the rocket if it threatened Japanese territory.
A US official told CNN that no part of the rocket had exited the earth's atmosphere.
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The failure could prove especially embarrassing to the North Korean government as the event was intended to mark the 100th anniversary of the state's founding leader Kim Il Sung's birth and to punctuate the rise to power of Kim Jong Un.
North Korea had also shown unusual self-confidence in advance of the launch, extraordinarily inviting foreign media correspondents to be present.
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South Korean officials say the three-stage Unha-3 rocket had been launched the western coastal village of Tongchang-ri, according to The Associated Press. However, citing the South Korean army, NBC news said, the debris had fallen off of Kunsan on South Korea's western coast.
CNN produced this report in advance of the launch: