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21 Nov, 2023 21:34

North Korea claims spy satellite breakthrough

After two failed attempts, the country has reportedly sent a surveillance probe into space
North Korea claims spy satellite breakthrough

North Korea launched a military surveillance satellite into orbit on Tuesday, according to state media in Pyongyang and the South Korean military. The successful launch came after two failed attempts earlier this year.

The breakthrough was announced by KCNA on Wednesday morning, with the state media outlet claiming that a rocket “accurately put the reconnaissance satellite ‘Malligyong-1’ on its orbit.” South Korea’s joint chiefs of staff confirmed the launch, stating that the projectile traveled in a southerly direction over Japan.

The launch triggered a ballistic missile alert in Japan, and residents of the island of Okinawa were urged to seek shelter.

North Korea had made unsuccessful attempts to place a satellite in orbit in May and August, both of which fell to the sea shortly after lift-off. Following the second attempt, Pyongyang notified Tokyo that it would try once more in late November.

Japan and the US condemned the launch, with the White House calling it a “brazen violation” of multiple UN resolutions, and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida calling it “a very serious matter that greatly concerns the safety of our people.”

The capabilities of the Malligyong-1 satellite are unknown, and it is unclear whether the probe is broadcasting data back to Earth. North Korea has successfully launched two satellites before, most recently in 2016. Pyongyang maintains that both satellites were part of its civilian space program.

In a separate announcement on KCNA on Tuesday, North Korea’s space agency declared that the latest launch was a response to “the space militarization drive of the United States and its followers.” With Japan and South Korea both planning launches in the coming months, it is North Korea’s “sovereign right” to respond in kind, the agency said. 

Following a period of detente under US President Donald Trump, North Korea has significantly ramped up its missile program in recent years, conducting a record number of missile tests in 2022. With Pyongyang reportedly preparing to test its first atomic weapon since 2017, US President Joe Biden warned Kim in April that any nuclear attack on the US or its allies would “result in the end” of his regime.

Tuesday’s launch took place as the USS Carl Vinson Carrier Strike group arrived in the South Korean port of Busan in what the Pentagon called a show of “commitment to the alliance between the US and the Republic of Korea.”