SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea said its attempt to orbit the country’s first spy satellite failed on Wednesday, an apparent embarrassment to leader Kim Jong Un over his efforts to build up his military capacity amid tensions over extended security arrangements with the United States and South Korea. .
The statement released to state media said the rocket carrying the satellite crashed in waters off the west coast of the Korean Peninsula after losing thrust following the separation of its first and second stages. He said scientists were examining the cause of the failure.
Footage shows North Korea’s launchpad as it prepares its spy satellite
The rocket was launched around 6:30 a.m. from the northwest region of Tongchang-ri, where North Korea’s main space launch center is located, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement. communicated.
The South Korean military said the rocket had “abnormal flight” before falling into the waters. He also said he had strengthened his military readiness in close coordination with the United States. Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, Hirokazu Matsuno, told reporters that no object had reached space.
The North Korean launch had prompted brief evacuation orders in South Korea and Japan.
The southern capital, Seoul, issued alerts on public speakers and cellphone text messages asking residents to prepare for evacuation. But no major damage or disruption was reported and Seoul later lifted the alert.
The Japanese government has activated a missile warning system for its Okinawa prefecture in southwestern Japan that is believed to be in the rocket’s path.
“Please evacuate within buildings or underground,” the alert said. Authorities later lifted calls for evacuation.
A senior North Korean official said Tuesday the country needs a space-based reconnaissance system to counter escalating security threats from South Korea and the United States.
The United States strongly condemned North Korea for the launch, which used ballistic missile technology in violation of UN Security Council resolutions.
President Joe Biden and his national security team were assessing the situation in coordination with U.S. allies and partners, National Security Council spokesman Adam Hodge said.
It is unclear whether a North Korean spy satellite would significantly strengthen its defenses. The satellite revealed in the country’s official media did not seem sophisticated enough to produce high-resolution images. But some experts note that it is still likely able to detect troop movements and large targets, such as warships and fighter jets.
Recent commercial satellite images of the North’s main rocket launch center in the northwest showed active construction activities indicating that North Korea plans to launch more than one satellite, however.
And in his statement on Tuesday, Ri Pyong Chol, a close aide to leader Kim Jong Un, said the country would test “various means of recognition”.
He said these surveillance assets are responsible for “tracking, monitoring, discriminating, controlling” and responding, both in advance and in real time, to the movements of the United States and its allies.
With three to five spy satellites, North Korea could build a space-based surveillance system that would allow it to monitor the Korean peninsula in near real time, according to Lee Choon Geun, an honorary fellow at South Korea’s Science and Technology Policy Institute.
During his visit to the country’s aerospace agency earlier this month, Kim stressed the strategic importance a spy satellite could have in North Korea’s standoff with the United States and South Korea.
The satellite is one of several high-tech weapon systems that Kim has publicly pledged to introduce in recent years. Other weapons it has pledged to develop include a multi-headed missile, a nuclear submarine, a solid propellant intercontinental ballistic missile and a hypersonic missile.
Denuclearization talks with the United States have stalled since early 2019. In the meantime, Kim has focused on expanding his nuclear and missile arsenals in what experts say is an attempt to wrest concessions in Washington and Seoul. Since the start of 2022, North Korea has conducted more than 100 missile tests, many of which involve nuclear-capable weapons targeting the continental United States, South Korea and Japan.
North Korea says its testing activities are self-defense measures meant to respond to extensive military drills between Washington and Seoul that it sees as invasion rehearsals. U.S. and South Korean officials say their drills are defensive and they have beefed them up to deal with growing nuclear threats from North Korea.
The UN has imposed economic sanctions on North Korea for its previous satellite launches, which it sees as cover to test its long-range missiles. China and Russia, permanent members of the UN Council that are now locked in confrontations with the United States, have already blocked attempts to toughen sanctions over Pyongyang’s recent ballistic missile tests.
Ahead of Tuesday’s launch, South Korea and Japan said such a move would undermine regional peace. South Korea’s foreign ministry has warned that North Korea will face consequences.
After repeated failures, North Korea managed to put its first satellite into orbit in 2012 and its second in 2016. The government said both are Earth observation satellites launched under its program of peaceful space development, but many foreign experts believe both were developed to spy on rivals.
Observers say there is no evidence the satellites ever transmitted images to North Korea.
Associated Press writers Kim Tong-hyung in Seoul and Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo contributed to this report.