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  • Voltaire Staff

North Korean rocket carrying spy satellite explodes after launch

North Korea's ambitious plans to enhance its surveillance of the US and South Korea took a backseat when a rocket intended to deploy the country’s second spy satellite exploded shortly after lift-off on Monday, state media reported.

The launch occurred just hours after the leaders of South Korea, China, and Japan held their first trilateral meeting in more than four years in Seoul, reported Yahoo News. 

The launch drew condemnation from neighbouring countries, as the United Nations prohibits North Korea from conducting these launches, viewing them as tests for long-range missile technology.

It is unusual for North Korea to conduct such actions during high-level regional diplomacy involving China, its key ally and economic partner.

North Korea's state media reported that a rocket carrying a spy satellite exploded shortly after lift-off from the main north-western space centre. The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said the rocket failed during its first-stage flight due to a suspected engine problem.

According to an unnamed official from the National Aerospace Technology Administration, a preliminary examination indicated that the explosion was likely caused by issues with the new liquid oxygen-petroleum engine.

In response, Japan briefly issued a missile warning for Okinawa, advising residents to seek shelter. The warning was lifted after it was determined that the region was no longer in danger, said Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshimasa Hayashi.

Japanese Defence Minister Minoru Kihara called the North’s launch "a serious challenge to the entire world." 

South Korea’s Unification Ministry called a satellite launch by the North "a provocation that seriously threatens our and regional security."

However, North Korea asserts its right to launch satellites and test missiles, citing US-led military threats. The country claims that operating spy satellites will enhance its ability to monitor the US and South Korea and improve its missile precision.

During the trilateral meeting in Seoul, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol called for strong international action if North Korea proceeded with its launch.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida urged North Korea to cancel its plans, while Chinese Premier Li Qiang did not specifically address the launch, instead emphasised the need for peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula through political solutions.

North Korea, on the other hand, informed Japan’s coast guard of its planned satellite launch on early Monday, advising caution in the waters.

North Korean premier Kim Jong Un has been focussing on enhancing military cooperation with Russia, sharing a mutual opposition to Washington. While China has joined Russia in blocking US-led efforts to tighten UN sanctions on North Korea, it has been less overt in supporting Kim’s "new Cold War” stance due to its sensitivity about its international image.

North Korea’s Foreign Ministry strongly criticised a joint statement by Li, Yoon, and Kishida, calling it "wanton interference in its internal affairs."

The ministry objected to the statement’s emphasis on denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula.

The failed satellite launch hampers Kim Jong Un’s plan to deploy three more military spy satellites in 2024.

North Korea supreme leader Kim Jong Un. Image Source: Wikipedia






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