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North Korea launches what it says is a ‘military spy satellite’, Seoul says


A television broadcasting the news at a restaurant in Seoul on November 21, 2023, after North Korea launched what it claims is a military spy satellite. ANTHONY WALLACE / AFP

Japan, for its part, reported the launch of a missile by North Korea, which Prime Minister Fumio Kishida condemned with “the greatest possible firmness”. Just like Washington this Tuesday.

North Korea has launched what it says is a military spy satellite toward the South, the South Korean military said Tuesday, a defiance by Pyongyang of warnings from Seoul and UN resolutions banning it from using ballistic missile technologies. North Korea confirmed the launch of this satellite, which followed the planned trajectory “and managed to put the Malligyong-1 satellite into its orbit», Specified the official KCNA news agency. Washington condemned “firmly» this shot, which “risks destabilizing the region and beyond“, the White House National Security Council spokesperson said in a statement.

The South Korean army has “detected at 1:43 p.m. GMT (2:43 p.m. French time) a supposed military surveillance satellite“, his joint chiefs of staff said, without specifying whether the launch was successful or unsuccessful. Japan, for its part, reported the launch of a missile, which Prime Minister Fumio Kishida condemned with “the greatest possible firmness”, indicating having “strongly protested against North Korea“. “Even if they call it a satellite, launching something that uses ballistic missile technology is clearly a violation of United Nations resolutions“, highlighted the Prime Minister. Japan “analyzes whether it is a failure or a success», indicated the Minister of State for Defense, Hiroyuki Miyazawa.

When the launch was announced, the Japanese government briefly ordered residents of the Okinawa region, in the southwest of the archipelago, to take shelter. North Korea had earlier informed Japan of its intention to launch a satellite potentially as early as Wednesday, in a third attempt after two failures to put a military satellite into orbit last May and August.

Likely “countermeasures” from Seoul

This launch, “a few hours before the notification of the time window, seems to underline two things: Pyongyang’s confidence in its success and its intention to maximize the element of surprise», Reacted for AFP Choi Gi-il, professor of military studies at Sangji University. Seoul had been warning for weeks that Pyongyang was at “final steps» of the preparation of a new spy satellite launch.

On Monday, the South Korean military warned North Korea to stop “immediately» its preparations, warning Pyongyang that it would take “the necessary measures» if applicable. South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol could thus “suspend the September 19 military agreement“, Yang Moo-jin, president of the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, told AFP. This agreement, concluded in 2018 in Pyongyang, aims to reduce military tensions along the highly secure inter-Korean border by creating “buffer zones» maritime.

Tests of medium- or long-range solid-fuel ballistic missiles by Seoul “are not to be excluded» neither, added Yang Moo-jin. Seoul plans to launch its first spy satellite using a SpaceX rocket later this month. This project was castigated as falling under “extremely dangerous military provocations» by Ri Song Jin, a researcher at the National Aerospace Technology Administration, quoted Tuesday by the North’s official news agency, Korean Central News Agency.

American aircraft carrier

North Korea’s recent rapprochement with Russia worries the United States and its South Korean and Japanese allies. According to Seoul, Pyongyang supplies weapons to Moscow in exchange for Russian space technology. At the beginning of November, American Secretary of State Antony Blinken denounced military ties “growing and dangerous» between Pyongyang and Moscow, following a visit to South Korea.

North Korea has carried out a record number of missile tests this year, despite international sanctions and warnings from the United States, South Korea and their allies. She also said “irreversible» its status as a nuclear power.

Last week, it announced that it had successfully carried out ground tests of a “new type» solid fuel engine for its banned intermediate-range ballistic missiles (IRBM). Seoul, Washington and Tokyo have strengthened their defense cooperation in the face of this situation. On Tuesday, a U.S. nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, the USS Carl Vinson, arrived at the Busan Naval Base, South Korea. This arrival should strengthen the “Allies’ position in response to North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats“, as part of a recent agreement aimed at improving the “regular visibility of American strategic assets», Underlined the South Korean navy.

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