South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff reported on Tuesday that North Korea launched what it alleges to be a military surveillance satellite towards the south. North Korea’s KCNA news agency corroborated the launch, indicating that Kim Jong Un supervised the event and affirmed that the rocket successfully placed the reconnaissance satellite ‘Malligyong-1’ into its designated orbit.
KCNA also reported that the country plans to launch additional satellites in the near future.
The White House on Tuesday strongly condemned North Korea over its space launch calling it a “brazen violation” of UN sanctions that could destabilize the region.
Earlier on Tuesday, North Korea had notified Japan that it planned to launch a rocket carrying a military satellite in the direction of the Yellow Sea and East China Sea at some point between November 22 and December 1.
But the launch came earlier, with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s office posting on the social media platform X, formerly Twitter, on Tuesday: “North Korea has launched a suspected ballistic missile.”
Pyongyang’s previous efforts to put a spy satellite into orbit in May and August both failed, and Seoul, Tokyo and Washington had repeatedly warned Pyongyang not to proceed with another launch, which would violate successive rounds of UN resolutions.
Space launches and ballistic missiles have significant technological overlap, according to experts, and Pyongyang is barred by UN resolutions from any tests involving ballistic technology.
North Korea has conducted a record number of weapons tests this year.
Successfully putting a spy satellite into orbit would improve its intelligence-gathering capabilities, particularly over South Korea, and provide crucial data in any military conflict, experts say.
It has earlier made attempts to launch “observation” satellites, two of which appeared to have successfully reached orbit including one in 2016. However, South Korean officials have raised doubts as to whether they are transmitting any signals.
Neither Seoul nor Tokyo could verify whether Tuesday’s missile launch had resulted in a satellite actually being placed in orbit or not.
The Japanese government immediately urged residents in the southern region of Okinawa to take shelter.
“Missile launch. Missile launch. It appears that the missile was launched from North Korea. Please evacuate inside the building or underground,” the Prime Minister Kishida’s offices said via X.
Media reports said locals were startled by the loud, late-night public announcement. But the alert was soon lifted after authorities said the projectile had “passed into the Pacific.”
North Korea has notified Japan, as the coordinating authority for the International Maritime Organization for those waters, of its plans ahead of all three missile launches this year. But Kishida condemned the missile launch, saying it was a breach of UN resolutions.
“We have already made a strong protest against North Korea, and we have condemned it in the strongest possible terms,” Kishida told reporters at his office.
“Even if they call it a satellite, the launch of an item that uses ballistic missile technology is clearly a violation of the relevant United Nations resolutions.”
Kishida also said Japan would deal with the issue together with the US, South Korea and other relevant countries.
“This is a significant situation that affects the safety of Japanese people. We will continue to gather information and stay vigilant,” Kishida said, adding that he was yet to receive reports of any damage.
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