North Korean spy satellite launch fails as rocket falls into sea

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea’s bid to place the country’s first spy satellite in space failed Wednesday in a setback to leader Kim Jong Un’s efforts to boost its military capabilities as tensions with the United States and South Korea are increasing.

After an unusually quick admission of failure, North Korea committed to a second launch after learning what was wrong with its rocket liftoff. That suggests Kim remains determined to expand his arsenal of weapons and exert more pressure on Washington and Seoul as diplomacy stalls.

South Korea and Japan briefly urged residents to take shelter after the launch.

The South Korean military said it was recovering an object believed to be part of the downed North Korean rocket in waters 200 kilometers (124 miles) west of the southwestern island of Eocheongdo. The Department of Defense later released photos of a white metal cylinder it described as a suspected rocket part.

A satellite launch by North Korea is a violation of UN Security Council resolutions that prohibit the country from carrying out any launches based on ballistic technology. Observers say North Korea’s previous satellite launches have helped improve its long-range missile technology, although the latest launch was likely more focused on deploying a spy satellite. North Korea has already shown it could have the capability to strike the entire continental United States after years of intercontinental ballistic missile testing, although outside experts say the North has yet to acquire functional nuclear missiles .

The newly developed Chollima-1 rocket, which carried the Malligyong-1 satellite, was launched at 6:37 a.m. from the Sohae satellite launch ground in the northwest. The rocket crashed off the west coast of the Korean peninsula after losing thrust following the separation of its first and second stages, the official North Korean news agency said.

He said the country’s space agency will investigate the flaws revealed during the launch, take urgent measures to overcome them and carry out the second launch as soon as possible through various parts tests.

“It’s impressive when the North Korean regime actually admits failure, but it would be hard to hide the fact of a failed satellite launch internationally, and the regime will likely come up with a different narrative domestically. “, said Leif-Eric Easley, professor at Ewha. Seoul University, said. “This result also suggests that Pyongyang may soon stage another provocation, in part to make up for today’s setback.”

Seoul’s military said it had stepped up military preparedness in coordination with the United States, and Japan said it was ready to respond to any emergency.

The South Korean military said the North Korean rocket had “abnormal flight” before falling into the water. Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, Hirokazu Matsuno, told reporters that no object had reached space.

Adam Hodge, spokesman for the United States National Security Council, said in a statement that Washington strongly condemned the North Korean launch because it used banned ballistic missile technology, increased tensions and risked destabilizing security in the country. the region and beyond.

Hodge said the United States urges North Korea to resume talks and cease its provocative actions. He said the United States would take all necessary measures to ensure the security of the American homeland and the defense of South Korea and Japan.

The UN has imposed economic sanctions on North Korea for its previous launches of satellites and ballistic missiles. But he did not impose new sanctions on the recent tests because China and Russia, permanent members of the council now locked in confrontations with the United States, have blocked attempts to toughen sanctions.

Matsuno said North Korea’s repeated missile launches pose serious threats to the peace and security of Japan, the region and the international community. Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada said Japan plans to keep missile defense systems deployed in Japan’s southern islands and southwestern waters in place until June 11, which marks the end of North Korea’s declared launch window.

The southern capital, Seoul, issued alerts via public loudspeakers and text messages on cellphones asking residents to prepare for evacuation after the launch was detected. Japan has activated a missile warning system for Okinawa prefecture in southwestern Japan in the suspected path of the rocket. Alerts in Okinawa and Seoul were later lifted.

“Please evacuate within buildings or underground,” the Japanese alert said.

KCNA did not provide any details about the rocket and satellite beyond their names. But experts said earlier that North Korea would likely use a liquid-fueled rocket, as have most of its previously tested long-range rockets and missiles.

Although considering further investigation, the North’s National Aerospace Development Administration attributed the failure to “the poor reliability and stability of the new-type engine system applied to (the) carrier rocket” and “the unstable nature of the fuel,” according to KCNA.

On Tuesday, Ri Pyong Chol, a senior North Korean official, said the North needed a space-based reconnaissance system to counter escalating security threats from South Korea and the United States. United.

However, the spy satellite leaked to the country’s official media earlier did not seem sophisticated enough to produce high-resolution images. Some outside experts said it might still be able to detect troop movements and large targets such as warships and warplanes.

Recent commercial satellite images from North Korea’s Sohae launch center showed active construction indicating that North Korea plans to launch more than one satellite. In his Tuesday statement, Ri also said North Korea would test “various means of reconnaissance” to monitor the movements of the United States and its allies in real time.

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.

The satellite is one of several high-tech weapon systems that Kim has publicly promised to introduce. Other weapons on his wish list include a multi-warhead missile, a nuclear submarine, a solid propellant intercontinental ballistic missile and a hypersonic missile. During his visit to the space agency in mid-May, Kim stressed the strategic importance of a spy satellite in the standoff between North Korea and the United States and South Korea.

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.

Easley, the professor, said Kim had likely increased the pressure on his scientists and engineers to launch the spy satellite as his South Korean rival successfully launched its first commercial-grade satellite aboard its Nuri rocket. of domestic manufacture at the beginning of the month.

South Korea is expected to launch its first spy satellite later this year, and analysts say Kim likely wants his country to launch its spy satellite before the South to bolster its military credentials at home.

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 writer Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo contributed to this report.

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