North Korea launched a rocket on Wednesday, Japan and South Korea said, following its announcement of a controversial plan to send its first military spy satellite into orbit.
The rocket, according to South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, was launched around 6:30 a.m. from the northwest region of Tongchang-ri, where the country’s main space launch center is located. The South Korean military was trying to confirm whether the launch was successful, the Associated Press reported.
North Korea rushed to launch its first military spy satellite on Tuesday and informed the International Maritime Organization that the launch could take place as early as Wednesday.
After the launch, the South Korean capital of Seoul issued alerts to public speakers and cellphone text messages asking residents to prepare for evacuation. But no major damage or disruption was reported and Seoul later lifted the alert.
The Japanese government has activated a missile warning system for its Okinawa prefecture in southwestern Japan that is believed to be in the rocket’s path. Authorities later lifted calls for evacuation.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s government informed the agency via email that the tentative launch window extends to June 11. A day earlier, the reclusive nation informed neighboring Japan of the launch plan, prompting an order from Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada to shoot down any North Korean satellite or debris that enters Japanese territory.
Any satellite launch would violate United Nations resolutions banning long-range missile testing by Pyongyang.
“The North Korean crisis, which has been in hibernation for years, looks set to explode onto the world stage again,” Harry Kazianis, CEO of Rogue States Project and editor of national website 19FortyFive, says. USA TODAY.
∙ Pyongyang has notified the IMO, which is responsible for maritime safety, to provide coordinates of areas where debris could fall.
∙ North Korea says the satellite is crucial for monitoring joint US-South Korean military exercises that have multiplied in recent months. North Korea describes the drills as “reckless” invasion rehearsals.
∙ Washington and Seoul, saying the drills are defensive, have expanded joint training since 2022 to deal with evolving North Korean threats.
US State Department urges Pyongyang to reconsider
The US State Department has warned that the technology used to launch the satellite will be “identical and interchangeable with” ballistic missile technology. The UN Security Council has banned North Korea from testing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles since 2006.
“We urge the DPRK (North Korea) to refrain from any further illegal activity and call on Pyongyang to engage in serious and sustained diplomacy,” the statement said.
Could North Korea fire a test missile into the ocean off California?
Kazianis said it was clear that Japan was committed to shooting down any missile or satellite crossing its national borders and that Washington and Seoul would likely support Japan. It’s important to be “clear-headed” about how North Korea might react, he said. Kazianis believes Pyongyang could then test a nuclear weapon – and send an intercontinental ballistic missile across the Pacific Ocean, perhaps a few hundred miles from the California coast.
North Korea appears determined to prove its military is strong, he said, adding that Kim would never give up his country’s nuclear weapons.
“Pyongyang, through decades of investment totaling billions of dollars, is not a military paper tiger, but can raise tensions far beyond anything we have seen” in previous years, Kazianis said. . “And that could put us on the brink of a nuclear confrontation.”
Contributor: Thao Nguyen, USA TODAY; The Associated Press