North Korea claims its 3rd attempt to put a spy satellite into orbit has been successful

FILE - In this photo provided by the North Korean government, North Korea leader Kim Jong Un attends an event to celebrate the nation's 75th founding anniversary in Pyongyang, North Korea, on Sept. 8, 2023. Independent journalists were not given access to cover the event depicted in this image distributed by the North Korean government. The content of this image is as provided and cannot be independently verified. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP, File)

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida speaks to reporters at his office in Tokyo Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2023. North Korea told Japan that it will make a third attempt to launch a military spy satellite later this month, Japanese media reported Tuesday. (Kyodo News via AP)

This photo provided by the North Korean government shows what it says a launch of the newly developed Chollima-1 rocket carrying the Malligyong-1 satellite on May 31 at the Sohae Satellite Launching Ground. Independent journalists were not given access to cover the event depicted in this image distributed by the North Korean government. The content of this image is as provided and cannot be independently verified. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP, File)

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea claimed Wednesday to have successfully placed a spy satellite into orbit with its third launch attempt this year, demonstrating the nation’s determination to build a space-based surveillance system during protracted tensions with the United States.

The North’s claim could not immediately independently be confirmed. Observers doubt whether the satellite is advanced enough to perform military reconnaissance. But the launch still invited strong condemnation from the United States and its partners because the U.N. bans North Korea from conducting satellite launches, calling them covers for tests of missile technology.


The North’s space agency said that its new “Chollima-1” carrier rocket accurately placed the Malligyong-1 satellite into orbit on Tuesday night, about 12 minutes after liftoff from the country’s main launch center.

The National Aerospace Technology Administration called the launch a legitimate right of North Korea to bolster its self-defense capabilities. It said the spy satellite would help improve the North’s war preparedness in the face of “the enemies’ dangerous military moves.”

The agency said leader Kim Jong Un oversaw the launch at the scene and congratulated scientists and others involved. It said North Korea will launch several more spy satellites to better monitor South Korea and other areas.

U.S. National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said Washington strongly condemned North Korea for the launch, saying it “raises tensions and risks destabilizing the security situation in the region and beyond.” She said the launch involved technologies that are directly related to North Korea’s intercontinental ballistic missile program.

South Korea said the launch would push it to suspend a 2018 inter-Korean tension-reduction agreement and resume frontline aerial surveillance of North Korea. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida called the launch “a serious threat that affects the safety of the people” and said Japan lodged a protest with North Korea condemning the launch in strongest terms.

According to South Korean and Japanese assessments, the rocket carrying the satellite flew from the Korean Peninsula’s west coast and over the Japanese island of Okinawa toward the Pacific Ocean. The Japanese government briefly issued a J-Alert missile warning for Okinawa, urging residents to take shelter.

A spy satellite is among the key military assets coveted by Kim, who wants to modernize his weapons systems to cope with what he calls escalating U.S.-led threats. North Korea’s attempted launches earlier this year ended in failure due to technical issues.

North Korea had vowed a third launch would take place in October. South Korean officials have said the delay until now occurred likely because North Korea was receiving Russian technological assistance for its spy satellite launch program.

North Korea and Russia, both U.S. adversaries that are increasingly isolated globally, have been pushing hard to expand their relationships in recent months. In September, Kim traveled to Russia’s Far East to meet President Vladimir Putin and visit key military sites, touching off intense speculation of a weapons deal.

The alleged deal involves North Korea supplying conventional arms to refill Russia’s ammunition stock drained in its war with Ukraine. In return, foreign governments and experts say that North Korea seeks Russian help in enhancing its nuclear and other military programs.

During Kim’s Russia visit, Putin told state media that his country would help North Korea build satellites, saying Kim “shows keen interest in rocket technology.”

Russia and North Korea dismissed the allegation of their arms transfer deal as groundless. Such a deal would violate U.N. bans on any weapons trading involving North Korea.

Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul, said Tuesday’s launch raises more questions than answers, such as whether the North Korean satellite actually performs reconnaissance functions and whether Russia provided technical and even material assistance.

“What is already clear is that this is not a one-off event but part of a North Korean strategy of prioritizing military capabilities over economic development, threatening rather than reconciling with South Korea, and further aligning with Russia and China instead of pursuing diplomacy with the United States,” Easley said.

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