The UN Security Council will hold an emergency meeting after North Korea fired a long-range rocket it claims put a satellite into orbit.
The move was condemned by the US, UK, South Korea and Japan as a missile test against international sanctions.
Foreign secretary Philip Hammond said: "I strongly condemn North Korea’s ballistic missile technology test. This is a clear and deliberate violation of a number of UN Security Council Resolutions. North Korea’s actions continue to present a threat to regional and international security."
He added: "In conducting this provocation, North Korea has clearly demonstrated that it is intent on prioritising the development of its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes over improving the well-being of its own people."
US security adviser Susan Rice called it "destabilising and provocative" action and a violation of United Nations resolutions.
"We condemn today's launch and North Korea's determination to prioritise its missile and nuclear weapons programs over the well-being of its people, whose struggles only intensify with North Korea’s diversion of scarce resources to such destabilising activities," said Rice.
The launch prompted South Korea to call for talks with the US on the deployment of a missile defence system and for greater sanctions on the country from the UN.
Japan called the launch "totally unacceptable".
"This series of provocation in a short range of time gravely undermines the peace and stability of the region and the international community including Japan, and is totally unacceptable," a Japanese government official said.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said: "Today’s missile launch, which follows a recent nuclear test, is a clear violation of UN Security Council resolutions. We will resolutely take measures, acting in cooperation with the international community. We also intend to take all possible measures to ensure the safety and the peace of mind of the Japanese people."
The rocket launch is a repeat of one which took place in 2012, missile technology expert John Schilling told Reuters. North Korea is prevented from carrying out any missile tests by the UN Security Council.