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Sea hunt for failed N Korea rocket

South Korean warships have fanned out across the Yellow Sea to search for debris from North Korea's failed rocket launch, which brought humiliation for the country's new young leader and condemnation from a host of nations.

The rocket's disintegration just moments after lift-off yesterday brought a rare public acknowledgement of failure from Pyongyang, which had hailed the launch as a show of strength amid North Korea's persistent economic hardship.

The UN Security Council deplored the launch but stopped short of imposing new penalties in response.

For the 20-something Kim Jong Un it was to have been a highlight of the celebratory events surrounding his ascension to top political power. It was timed to coincide with the country's biggest holiday in decades - the 100th birthday of North Korean founder Kim Il Sung, the young leader's grandfather.

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 its demise four hours later in an announcement broadcast on state TV, saying the satellite the rocket was carrying did not enter orbit.

The launch brought swift international condemnation, including the suspension of US food aid, and raised concerns that the North's next move could be even more provocative - a nuclear test, the country's third.

The UN Security Council denounced the launch as a violation of two resolutions that prohibit North Korea from developing its nuclear and missile programmes, and met behind closed doors to consider a response. The council imposed sanctions on North Korea after its first nuclear test in 2006 and stepped up sanctions after its second in 2009.

US President Barack Obama said North Korea's failed rocket launch shows the country is wasting money on rockets that "don't work" while its people starve.

He told Spanish-language TV network Telemundo that the North Koreans have "been trying to launch missiles like this for over a decade now, and they don't seem to be real good at it".

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