By JEAN H. LEE, Associated Press
PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) -- A satellite launch North Korea had hailed as a moment of national pride ended in failure Friday when the rocket disintegrated over the Yellow Sea, earning Pyongyang embarrassment as well as condemnation from a host of nations that deemed it a covert test of missile technology.
In a rare move, Pyongyang admitted that the rocket did not deliver a satellite, but it also pressed ahead with grandiose propaganda in praise of the ruling Kim family.
The United States and South Korea declared the early-morning launch a failure minutes after the rocket shot out from the North's west coast. North Korea acknowledged that some four hours later in an announcement broadcast on state TV, saying the satellite that the rocket was carrying did not enter orbit.
North Korea had held up the launch as a scientific achievement and even a gift for its late founder, Kim Il Sung, two days before the 100th anniversary of his birth. It pressed ahead even as world leaders vowed to take action in the U.N. Security Council against what they called a flagrant violation of international resolutions prohibiting North Korea from developing its nuclear and missile programs.
The rocket's destruction suggests the country has yet to master the technology needed to build long-range missiles that could threaten the United States. Still, worries remain about North Korea's nuclear program amid reports that it may be planning an atomic test soon.
The launch is also a setback for the government of new leader Kim Jong Un, which had projected the satellite as a show of strength amid North Korea's persistent economic hardship. Kim is solidifying power following the death of his father, longtime leader Kim Jong Il, four months ago.
Kim Jong Un has been given several important titles intended to strengthen his rule this week. Hours after the failed launch, state media said he was named first chairman of the powerful National Defense Commission during a meeting of the Supreme People's Assembly.
Kim Jong Il, who ruled the country in his capacity as chairman of the commission, was given the title of "chairman for eternity."
Outsiders, meanwhile, focused on the launch, which was .
At a massive gathering later Friday in Pyongyang, Kim Jong Un and other senior officials watched the unveiling of an enormous new statue of Kim Jong Il, which stood beside an equally large statue of Kim Il Sung.
Associated Press writers Hyung-jin Kim, Foster Klug, Sam Kim and Eric Talmadge contributed to this report from Seoul, South Korea; Mari Yamaguchi and Malcolm Foster contributed from Tokyo; Matthew Pennington contributed from Washington.