• Defense & Security

N. Korea Intends to Launch ‘Satellite’ Sometime between May 31-June 11, Japan Govt. Says

AP
A TV screen at Seoul Railway Station in Seoul shows a file image of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, center, during a news program on Monday.

The Japanese government said Monday morning that North Korea had given notice that it intends to launch a “satellite” sometime between Wednesday and June 11. Pyongyang may launch a military reconnaissance satellite in a southerly direction. Japan, the United States, South Korea and other countries are increasing their vigilance and coordination in the belief that it will actually be a de facto ballistic missile launch, which is prohibited under U.N. Security Council resolutions.

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SEOUL — North Korea notified the Japan Coast Guard early Monday that its planned launch of a “satellite” would affect the navigation of vessels in three locations: two areas west of the Korean Peninsula in the Yellow Sea and an area east of the Philippines’ main island of Luzon.

It would be the first time since February 2016 for North Korea to launch a satellite. On that occasion, debris fell in locations around the notified sea areas.

The North announced last December that it would complete preparations for “military reconnaissance satellite No. 1” by April this year, and a launch-preparation committee comprising related organizations was established following the completion of the alleged satellite’s development last month.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un this month approved a future action plan for the “satellite.” Suspected launch-preparation work was identified at Sohae Satellite Launching Station in Tongchang-ri in the northwest of the country.

At the Party Congress in January 2021, Kim — who views the United States and South Korea as enemies — set the development of military reconnaissance satellites as one of his goals, along with enhancing the country’s intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capabilities and reducing the size and weight of its nuclear weapons. North Korea reportedly intends to monitor U.S. and South Korean military bases with spy satellites in parallel with the development of missiles capable of carrying nuclear bombs.

However, it is unclear whether the satellites are equipped with advanced technology for capturing images and transmitting data, and some are skeptical about their reconnaissance capabilities. North Korea’s purported satellite launch is apparently aimed at demonstrating its rivalry with Japan, the United States and South Korea, which are closely cooperating with each other.

The basic technology used in satellite booster rockets and ballistic missiles is the same, and North Korea has been improving its missile technology while claiming to be making satellite launches. Pyongyang’s “satellites” passed over the Tohoku region in August 1998 and Nansei Islands in Okinawa Prefecture in December 2012 and February 2016.