On Wednesday, North Korea’s attempt to launch a military spy satellite took a turn for the worse as it crashed into the sea shortly after liftoff. State media attributed the mishap to an “accident” that occurred during the satellite’s flight. Despite the setback, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un remains committed to developing a functional military spy satellite, having personally overseen certain launch preparations in his regime.
According to the official Korean Central News Agency, the North Korean space authorities initiated the launch of the “Malligyong-1” military reconnaissance satellite. The satellite was mounted on the new-type carrier rocket named “Chollima-1” at the Sohae Satellite Launching Ground in Cholsan County, North Phyongan Province, precisely at 6:27 on May 31. However, the mission did not achieve its intended outcome.
But the rocket crashed into the sea “after losing thrust due to the abnormal starting of the second-stage engine after the separation of the first stage during the normal flight,” it said.
Authorities will “thoroughly investigate the serious defects revealed in the satellite launch, take urgent scientific and technological measures to overcome them, and conduct the second launch as soon as possible”.
The South Korean military detected the satellite launch and reported that it disappeared from radar early on, ultimately falling into the sea due to abnormal flight, according to the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
North Korea had previously confirmed its plans to launch the “military reconnaissance satellite No. 1” before June 11, with prior notification given to Japan.
Both Tokyo and Seoul strongly criticized the proposed launch, citing violations of UN sanctions that prohibit Pyongyang from engaging in any tests involving ballistic missile technology.
Analysts note that the development of satellite launch capabilities could serve as a cover for testing banned intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), given the shared technology between long-range rockets and space launchers.
Following the launch, Seoul city authorities issued an emergency text message alert to residents, instructing them to prepare for evacuation and prioritize the safety of children and the elderly.
An air raid siren sounded in central Seoul, leading to confusion and concern on social media. However, minutes later, Seoul’s interior ministry clarified that the alert had been “incorrectly issued.”
– Monitoring US military –
“Kim stayed true to his word and launched the spy satellite today,” Soo Kim, policy practice area lead at LMI Consulting and a former CIA analyst, told AFP.
“We know that Kim’s determination does not end with this recent activity,” she said, adding that the launch could be a “foreshadowing of greater provocations, including the nuclear test we have been speculating on for quite some time.”
Since 1998, Pyongyang has conducted a total of five satellite launches, with three resulting in immediate failures and the status of the other two launches remaining uncertain as signals were not independently detected, suggesting possible malfunctions.
North Korea announced on Tuesday that its new spy satellite would play a crucial role in tracking, monitoring, and preemptively dealing with what it described as the “dangerous military acts of the US and its allied forces.”
Expressing dissatisfaction with joint military exercises between the US and South Korea, including ongoing large-scale live-fire drills, a senior North Korean military official stated that Pyongyang felt the necessity to expand its reconnaissance and information capabilities and enhance various defensive and offensive weapons, as reported by state media.
In both 2012 and 2016, North Korea conducted ballistic missile tests that it claimed were satellite launches. These missiles flew over Japan’s southern Okinawa region.
Early Wednesday, Japan briefly activated its missile alert warning system for the Okinawa region, but the alert was lifted after approximately 30 minutes.
– ‘Price and pain’ –
Since the breakdown of diplomatic efforts in 2019, North Korea has intensified its focus on military development, conducting a series of prohibited weapons tests, including multiple test-firings of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un declared his country as an “irreversible” nuclear power last year and called for a significant increase in weapons production, including tactical nuclear weapons.
Regardless of the success of North Korea’s current satellite mission, it is expected that Pyongyang will use it as an opportunity for political propaganda regarding its space capabilities, according to Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul.
Earlier this week, South Korea’s foreign ministry strongly condemned North Korea’s launch plan, stating that the so-called “satellite launch” represents a grave violation of UN Security Council resolutions that prohibit all launches involving ballistic missile technology.