The world is awaiting North Korea's next move after a would-be show of military strength turned into a spectacular failure when a rocket carrying a satellite broke into pieces and crashed into the Yellow Sea moments after takeoff on Friday.

Meanwhile, despite the failure, leader Kim Jong Un received a promotion of sorts and was named first chairman of the powerful National Defence Commission.

The rocket was intended to carry a satellite into orbit but many international observers and nations saw it as a covert test of the country's missile technology.

Within minutes of the test, the U.S. said the rocket had failed, and in a rare moment of transparency, the North Korean regime also acknowledged the failure, which was estimated to cost nearly $1 billion.

While the United Nations stopped short of drafting fresh sanctions or taking further punitive action against the isolated North Korean government, the global community reacted with swift condemnation.

The U.S. also suspended food aid to North Korea, and international observers are now considering the possibility that the Asian nation could take their provocative actions a step further by testing a nuclear device.

The test of the rocket, with a name that translates loosely to mean "Glory," was intended to demonstrate Pyongyang's technological advances ahead of the 100th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Sung, the country's founder and the grandfather of the current leader, who took over four months ago following his father's death.

The test was widely condemned ahead of time by world leaders who called it a blatant violation of international resolutions banning North Korea from developing its nuclear and missile programs.

Earlier, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the launch "is in direct violation" of Security Council sanctions "and threatens regional stability," according to spokesperson Martin Nesirky.

Leaders of the Group of Eight industrial nations, which includes Russia, condemned the launch.

Washington said it was holding off on planned food aid shipments that were to go to Pyongyang in return for its commitment to roll back its nuclear program.

North Korea had announced weeks ago that it would launch a long-range rocket mounted with an observational satellite. The project was touted as a gift to honour Kim Il Sung.

Experts say the Unha-3 carrier was the same type of rocket that could potentially be used to strike the U.S. and other targets with a long-range missile.

Greg Thielmann, a former intelligence officer with the U.S. State Department, told The Associated Press it appears the North Koreans haven't mastered multistage rocket technology -- a key capability if the North is to threaten the U.S. with intercontinental missiles.

Pyongyang has tested two atomic devices but is not yet believed to have the ability to build a nuclear warhead small enough to be mounted on a long-range missile.

North Korean space officials said the Unha-3, or Galaxy-3, rocket was meant to deliver a satellite that would study crops and weather patterns.

Now, the U.S. Navy's minesweepers will begin to scour the sea where the rocket went down in the hopes of finding out what brought it down.

U.S. officials said that the rocket failure appeared to have occurred during the second stage. But it wasn't clear if the separation of the first stage occurred in a controlled manner.

"It was an obvious and very quick failure," said Pentagon press secretary George Little.

Though he said that North Korea doesn't have a good "track record" of launches, that doesn't mean the Pentagon is dismissing any potential North Korean technological improvements.

"We are not discounting the possibility of advancements in North Korean missile technology, notwithstanding their failures."

The event marked the reclusive nation's third attempt to launch a satellite since 1998.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said that it's untenable that North Korea would spend money and resources on firing a missile when the nation has been dealing with a famine for years.

"That's the real deplorable part of the action taken yesterday," he told CTV's Power Play from Washington. "That's why it's drawing worldwide condemnation."

With a report from The Associated Press