PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) — It now appears that North Korea hasn't mastered the technology it would need to control multi-stage rockets.

That's the assessment of former State Department intelligence officer Greg Thielmann, after North Korea's failed launch today. A rocket that officials said was carrying a satellite into orbit splintered into pieces over the Yellow Sea soon after takeoff.

The North would need to master that rocket technology before it could ever threaten the United States with intercontinental ballistic missiles.

North Korea had announced plans for the launch weeks ago, touting it as a major technological achievement to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Sung, the country's father.

And according to one U.S. expert, the failure "blows a big hole in the birthday party." Victor Cha, who used to direct Asia policy in the U.S. National Security Council, says it's "terribly embarrassing for the North."

The U.S. and other countries denounced the launch, calling it a test of missile technology. The U.N. Security Council has scheduled an emergency meeting later today.