North Korea’s suspected spy satellite launch ends in ‘fragments’

Published May 28, 2024
A woman walks past a television showing a news broadcast in a train station in Seoul on May 28, 2024, with footage run by Japanese broadcaster NHK on Tuesday of what appeared to be a flaming projectile in the night sky that then exploded into a fireball, saying it had been filmed from northeast China at the time of the attempted launch. — AFP
A woman walks past a television showing a news broadcast in a train station in Seoul on May 28, 2024, with footage run by Japanese broadcaster NHK on Tuesday of what appeared to be a flaming projectile in the night sky that then exploded into a fireball, saying it had been filmed from northeast China at the time of the attempted launch. — AFP

SEOUL: North Korea’s latest satellite launch ended in a mid-air explosion on Monday night, Pyongyang said, hours after its announcement of the planned projectile was criticised by Seoul and Tokyo.

The launch of the Malligyong-1-1 reconnaissance satellite “exploded in the air during the first flight and failed to launch”, the country’s National Aerospace Technology Administration said in a statement carried by state media, adding the “cause of the accident was the reliability of the newly developed liquid oxygen and oil engine”.

Japanese broadcaster NHK ran footage of what appeared to be a flaming projectile in the night sky, which then burst into a ball of flame, saying it had filmed it from northeast China at the same time as the attempted launch.

Pyongyang had notified Japan earlier on Monday that it was planning to put another satellite into orbit, after a successful attempt in November, plus two failed efforts earlier last year.

Nuclear-armed North Korea is barred by multiple UN resolutions from tests using ballistic technology, and analysts say there is significant technological overlap between space launch capabilities and the development of ballistic missiles.

“Our military detected around 22:44 on Monday the trajectory of what’s suspected to be the North’s military reconnaissance satellite fired from Tongchang-ri area in North Pyongan province southwards,” Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said. But two minutes later “many fragments of the projectile were detected in North Korean waters, and the US and South Korea are analysing whether it had an operational flight,” the JCS added.

Japan also confirmed the launch and the government briefly issued an alert warning residents of southern Okinawa prefecture to take cover in shelters, but it was lifted minutes later.

Nuclear-armed North Korea successfully launched its first reconnaissance satellite last November, drawing international condemnation, with the United States calling it a “brazen violation” of UN sanctions.

Published in Dawn, May 28th, 2024

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