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US and China say rocket launch failed


North Korea's widely anticipated and controversial launch of its long-range rocket was said by the US to have failed last night, with China reporting the rocket had been seen falling into the sea after taking off.

News of the rocket being fired was announced by Kim Min-seok, a spokesman for South Korea's Defence Ministry, who told reporters in a nationally televised news conference that it was launched at 7.39am local time, though there was no word from Pyongyang about the launch.

The United Nations Security Council said it would discuss the launch at 1pm BST today.

The launch had long been expected but its timing came as something of a surprise as fierce winds whipping across the Korean peninsula had apparently forced Pyongyang to delay.

North Korea's state media gave no reason for the delay but had announced the rocket would roar off its launch pad in the north-western corner of the country near the Chinese border by Monday.

Pyongyang claims the rocket is meant to put a satellite in orbit, but the US, Britain, Japan and other nations say it would violate UN sanctions prohibiting the country from developing its missile programme.