State media reported North Korea's attempt to launch its first military surveillance satellite failed after the rocket "crashed into the sea," Seoul recovered some of the debris.
According to the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), the launch occurred early on Wednesday morning, the first day of a 12-day launch window that had been announced to position the satellite in orbit.
"The 'Cheollima-1' crashed into the West Sea of Korea as it lost momentum due to an abnormal start-up of the two-stage engine after one step separation while flying normally," North Korea's KCNA reported shortly after South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCOS) reported that the projectile had vanished from radar.
The JCS previously reported that it had detected the launch at approximately 6:29 a.m. (Tuesday, 21:29 GMT), prompting alerts in Seoul and Japan that were subsequently canceled.
The flight was the sixth satellite launch attempt by the nuclear-armed nation and the first since 2016. It was intended to orbit the first North Korean surveillance satellite.
Divers were conducting a salvage operation, according to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at the location where the exclusive economic zones of China and South Korea intersect. Photos released by the defense ministry depicted a large cylinder attached to a float.
George William Herbert, an adjunct professor at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute, stated that the images depicted at least part of a rocket, including an "interstage" section designed to attach to another stage.
Herbert told Reuters that it was likely a liquid-fuel rocket and that the brown, spherical object was a propellant canister containing either fuel or oxidizer.
Seoul stated that Pyongyang might attempt a second launch before the June 11 expiration of its previously announced launch window.
Analysts believed it was only before North Korea possessed a functioning spy satellite.
"They promised to do it. Andrew Lankov, a North Korea expert at Kookmin University, told Al Jazeera that Pyongyang's development plans are remarkably transparent. "They are committed to doing it. They have the ability. They possess architects. They possess the funds. They will complete the task. Perhaps not now. There may be a few more attempts, but they will eventually succeed."
North Korea's satellite launch violates United Nations Security Council resolutions prohibiting ballistic missile technology.
The Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, condemned the satellite launch and urged Pyongyang to resume denuclearization negotiations, which have stalled since 2019.
"The Secretary-General strongly condemns the military satellite launch conducted by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea," UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in a statement.
The relevant Security Council resolutions prohibit using ballistic missile technology for any launch.
Japan's foreign ministry stated that officials from South Korea, Japan, and the United States spoke on the phone and "strongly condemned" the launch.
"The three countries will maintain vigilance and a sense of urgency," the statement said.
Nuclear-armed In defiance of UN sanctions, North Korea has been rapidly modernizing and expanding its arsenal, and in 2022 it conducted a record number of nuclear tests.
It asserts that its actions are necessary for self-defense.
"Pyongyang is concerned that South Korea is successfully deepening trilateral security cooperation with Japan and the United States," said Leif-Eric Easley, an associate professor of international studies at Ewha Womans University in Seoul.
"Given the demonstrated capability of South Korea's indigenous Nuri rocket to deliver satellites into orbit, the Kim regime likely sees itself in a space race."
Kim Jong Un, the leader of North Korea, stated earlier this month that the successful launch of a military reconnaissance satellite was an "urgent requirement of the country's current security environment."
Last week, South Korea launched a commercial-grade satellite using the Nuri, a domestically manufactured space rocket.