North Korea fires ‘spy satellite’, stokes panic in Japan

Published November 22, 2023
This picture taken on Nov 21, 2023 and released from North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on Nov 22 shows a rocket carrying the reconnaissance satellite ‘Malligyong-1’ being launched from the Sohae Satellite Launch Site in North Phyongan province. — KCNA via AFP
This picture taken on Nov 21, 2023 and released from North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on Nov 22 shows a rocket carrying the reconnaissance satellite ‘Malligyong-1’ being launched from the Sohae Satellite Launch Site in North Phyongan province. — KCNA via AFP

SEOUL: North Korea has fired what it claims is a military spy satellite, the South’s armed forces said on Tuesday, hours after Japan confirmed that Pyongyang had warned it of an imminent launch.

North Korea’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.

Seoul’s military “detected at 10:43pm one alleged military surveillance satellite launched from the Tongchang-ri area in North Pyongan province,” South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said.

The rocket and its purported satellite payload “flew to the west of Baengnyeong island”, it said, referring to an island near the maritime border between the two Koreas in the Yellow Sea. The JCS did not give any details on whether the launch appeared to have succeeded or failed.

Japan also confirmed the launch, with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s office posting on X: “North Korea has launched a suspected ballistic missile”. Space launch rockets and ballistic missiles have significant technological overlap, experts say, but different payloads, and Pyongyang is barred by UN resolutions from any tests involving ballistic technology.

Tokyo warned residents in the southern region of Okinawa to take shelter, but soon lifted the alert, saying the projectile had “passed into the Pacific”. Kishida said he condemned North Korea’s missile launch in the “strongest possible terms”.

Seoul has been saying for weeks that Pyongyang was in the final stages of preparation for another spy satellite launch, warning it would take “necessary measures” if it went ahead.

The office of South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol — who is in London for a state visit — hinted earlier on Tuesday that it would consider suspending the Sept 19 military agreement, a key deal aimed at de-escalating tensions on the peninsula, in response.

Published in Dawn, November 22th, 2023

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