Foreign Secretary William Hague said today he was "deeply concerned" about North Korea firing a long-range rocket in defiance of international warnings.
Hague said the country's ambassador would be summoned to the Foreign Office later today to discuss concern over the actions in the face of international condemnation.
Hague said: "I am deeply concerned about the Democratic People's Republic of Korea's (DPRK) satellite launch today.
"Such a launch uses ballistic missile technology and, as such, is a clear violation of UNSCR 1874.
"Later today the Permanent Under-Secretary, Simon Fraser, will summon the DPRK ambassador to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and make clear that the DPRK can expect a strong response from the international community if it continues to develop its missile and nuclear capabilities."
The rocket was fired at 11.39pm yesterday (7.39am local time) from the west coast launch pad in the hamlet of Tongchang-ri, South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff in Seoul said.
The launch appeared to fail when the rocket splintered into pieces moments after lift-off, South Korea's Defence Ministry said.
An American official also said the launch appeared to have failed.
Tokyo, which was prepared to shoot down any rocket flying over its territory, also confirmed a launch from North Korea.
Japan's defence minister Naoki Tanaka said: "We have confirmed that a certain flying object has been launched and fell after flying for just over a minute."
He said there was no impact on Japanese territory.
At the time of the launch in Pyongyang state television was broadcasting video of popular folk tunes.
North Korean officials said they would make an announcement about the launch soon.
South Korean president Lee Myung-bak will hold an emergency security meeting, officials said.
North Korea had hoped the launch would be seen as a show of strength amid persistent economic hardship as Kim Jong Un solidifies power following the death of his father, long-time leader Kim Jong Il, four months ago.
The country had invited dozens on international journalists to observe the launch and other celebrations to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of the country's founder Kim Il Sung on Sunday.
Victor Cha, former director for Asia policy in the US National Security Council, said: "It blows a big hole in the birthday party. It's terribly embarrassing for the North."
He said the next step would be to watch whether North Korea would conduct a nuclear test, as the the South Korean intelligence community has speculated.
"We have to watch very carefully what they are doing now at the nuclear test site and how they explain this with all those foreign journalists in the country," Mr Cha said.
North Korean space officials said the Unha-3 rocket was meant to send a satellite into orbit to study crops and weather patterns.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said North Korea's actions were provocative.
"Despite the failure of its attempted missile launch, North Korea's provocative action threatens regional security, violates international law and contravenes its own recent commitments," he said.
"While this action is not surprising given North Korea's pattern of aggressive behaviour, any missile activity by North Korea is of concern to the international community.
"The United States remains vigilant in the face of North Korean provocations and is fully committed to the security (of) our allies in the region."