North Korea tried and failed on Friday to launch a multi-stage rocket. Things appeared to go wrong shortly after the blast-off.
Officials in Seoul, Tokyo and Washington say North Korea did get its rocket off the launch pad at about 07:40 in the morning.
But South Korea Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok calls the launch a failure.
Kim says it is suspected that it failed shortly after the launch, breaking into pieces and losing altitude.
Japanese Deputy Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura concurs with that assessment, adding that the flight lasted only a minute or two.
Fujimura says there is no indication any debris fell on Japanese territory.
Initial reports are that the debris may have fallen into the Yellow Sea about 200 kilometers west of the South Korean coast.
Japan's defense forces, along with the South Korean and U.S. militaries in the region, had deployed anti-missile batteries on land and at sea to possibly shoot down the object if it flew over Japanese or South Korean territories.
Japan, the United States and other countries regard the launch as a covert test of ballistic missile technology, in violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions.
The launch prompted emergency security meetings both in Seoul and in Tokyo.
The U.N. Security Council is to discuss North Korea during a previously scheduled Friday session.
South Korea's foreign minister, Kim Sung-hwan, strongly condemns the North going ahead with the launch.
Kim says it is truly regrettable that North Korea spends huge financial resources on developing nuclear weapons and missiles while its citizens are experiencing such hardships.
Reporters in Pyongyang who had been told they would be able to view the launch from an observation center were not taken there. At a newsroom set up for the visiting correspondents, North Korean officials declined to answer any questions immediately after the failed launch.