North Korea attempts to launch space satellite; Warnings lifted in Japan, Korea

SEOUL/TOKYO, May 31 (Reuters) – South Korea’s military said it attempted to launch a North Korean space satellite over the ocean on Wednesday, as nuclear-armed North Korea seeks to gain a foothold in the regional space race. .

The launch prompted emergency warnings and brief evacuation warnings in parts of South Korea and Japan, which later reported no danger or damage.

South Korea’s military said it was still investigating whether the launch was successful, and media in South Korea and Japan said their governments were investigating the possibility that it had failed. North Korean state media did not immediately release the missile.

North Korea has said it will launch its first military spy satellite between May 31 and June 11 to increase monitoring of US military operations.

It joins an increasingly heated space race in the region. South Korea last week put satellites into orbit on a domestically designed and manufactured rocket for the first time, and China sent three astronauts to its now fully operational space station as part of a crew rotation on Tuesday.

“Whether or not North Korea’s current satellite mission is successful, expect Pyongyang to unleash political propaganda about its space capabilities and diplomatic rhetoric aimed at driving a wedge between Seoul and Tokyo,” Leif-Eric Easley said in an international study. Professor at Ewha University, Seoul.

Warnings are issued

In data provided to international authorities, North Korea said the launch would carry the rocket south, with various stages and other debris expected to fall into the Yellow Sea and the Pacific Ocean.

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Air raid sirens wailed across the South Korean capital of Seoul at 6:32 a.m. (2132 GMT Tuesday). Alerts later reported that the city warning had been sent in error.

The Japanese government issued an emergency warning to residents of the southern prefecture of Okinawa early Wednesday through its J-Alert broadcasting system. The government has warned residents to stay indoors if they are outside.

It later said the missile would not fly into Japan’s territory and lifted the warning.

Missile technology

On Tuesday, Ri Pyong Chol, vice chairman of the Central Military Commission of North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party, said Pyongyang “needs the ability to gather information on military operations” for ongoing joint military exercises between the US and South Korea. enemy in real time.”

Before Wednesday’s launch, the US State Department said any North Korean launch using ballistic missile technology would violate several United Nations Security Council resolutions.

“Space Launch Vehicles (SLVs) incorporate technologies similar to and interchangeable with those used in ballistic missiles, including intercontinental ballistic missiles,” a State Department spokesperson said.

North Korea has previously attempted five satellite launches, placing two satellites into orbit, during its last launch in 2016. Its ability to build working satellites remains unproven, however, researchers say.

“To our knowledge, North Korea has very little ability to build satellites,” said Brian Weeden of the Secure World Foundation, a US-based organization on space policy and defense. Doesn’t seem to have significant potential.”

Reporting by Hyonhee Shin, Ju-min Park and Josh Smith in Seoul and Chang-Ran Kim in Tokyo; Additional reporting by David Brunstrom in Washington; Editing by Chris Rees and Sonali Paul

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