June 21, 2024

North Korea’s latest attempt to put a spy satellite into orbit ended in a mid-air explosion, Pyongyang said late Monday, hours after its announcement of a planned launch was criticized by Seoul and Tokyo.

Japanese broadcaster NHK showed footage of what appeared to be a flaming projectile in the night sky, which then exploded in a fireball. NHK said the footage was taken from northeast China at the same time as the attempted launch.

The satellite “exploded mid-air during the first flight phase and failed to launch,” the North’s National Aviation Technology Administration said in a statement.

An “expert review concluded that the cause of the accident was the operational reliability of the newly developed liquid oxygen and oil engine,” the statement, carried by the official Korean Central News Agency, added.

Putting a spy satellite into orbit has long been a top priority for Kim Jong-un’s regime, and it claims to have succeeded in November, after two failed attempts last year. North Korea claims that the Malligyong-1 (meaning Telescope-1) satellite it put into orbit in November is operating successfully, but Seoul’s intelligence agency dismissed this claim.

Seoul claims Kim received Russian technical assistance for that launch, in exchange for sending containers of weapons to Moscow for use in Ukraine.

Earlier on Monday, Pyongyang notified Japan that it planned to put another satellite into orbit, prompting criticism from both Seoul and Tokyo, which urged Kim to halt it.

South Korea’s military said it detected the launch, but that the satellite “presumably exploded in mid-air”.

“The South Korean and US intelligence authorities are analyzing this in detail in close cooperation,” the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff said.

Nuclear-armed North Korea is barred by various UN resolutions from testing ballistic technology, and analysts say there is significant technological overlap between space launch capabilities and ballistic missile development.

Launching what North Korea said was the Malligyong-1, a military spy satellite, into orbit in November. Photo: AP

The launch “is a provocative act that clearly violates the UN Security Council resolution banning the use of ballistic missile technology,” South Korea’s military said.

The US Indo-Pacific Command called the launch a “flagrant violation of multiple unanimous UN Security Council resolutions”, and said in a statement that it “risks destabilizing the security situation in the region and beyond”. .

Japan briefly issued an alert warning residents of southern Okinawa Prefecture to seek shelter in shelters on Monday, but it was lifted minutes later.

The attempted launch came just hours after Seoul, Beijing and Tokyo concluded their first trilateral summit since 2019.

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol said on Monday that another satellite launch would “undermine regional and global peace and stability”.

Experts say that spy satellites could improve North Korea’s intelligence-gathering capabilities, particularly on South Korea, and provide crucial data in any military conflict.

Kim met with President Vladimir Putin in Russia last September, and Putin subsequently suggested that his nation could help Pyongyang build satellites.

Seoul and Washington both later accused Pyongyang of sending weapons to Moscowwith South Korea saying earlier this year that Pyongyang had sent thousands of containers of weapons to Russia for use in Ukraine.

A group of Russian engineers has entered North Korea to help with the launch preparations, Yonhap reported Sunday, citing a government official.

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