North Korean rocket launch may have failed, says Seoul

 (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
(POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

North Korea launched a rocket believed to be carrying a military reconnaissance satellite on Monday but the launch vehicle may have failed in flight, South Korea's military has said.

Pyongyang fired the projectile on a southern path off its west coast at around 10.44pm, the South's Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said.

It came hours after Pyongyang said it would be launching a satellite some time before June 4.

JCS said it had detected debris from the rocket in the sea, however, and South Korean and US intelligence agencies were investigating whether the launch had failed.

The projectile launched from North Korea disappeared from radar, and the launch appeared to have failed, a Japanese government official told broadcaster NHK.

Japanese Prime Minister’s Office lifted a missile alert issued for the island of Okinawa following North Korea’s launch, saying that the missile was believed not to be headed for its region.

A senior Japanese defence ministry official told reporters that "the missile did not fly into the area that had been announced, and the situation is not as North Korea had intended. We are still analysing whether it is a satellite or not," Japan's Kyodo news agency reported.

NHK showed video of what appeared to be an orange dot flying into the night sky and then bursting into flames in an area close to the border between China and North Korea.

The UN bans North Korea from conducting any satellite launches, claiming that they are covers for testing long-range missile technology.