This article was originally published by Radio Free Asia and is reprinted with permission.
North Korea said Tuesday it “accurately” launched a spy satellite into orbit, drawing a strong rebuke from the United States, which called the launch a threat to “stability and prosperity on the Korean peninsula.”
The launch follows the South Korean military’s warning on Monday that it detected new activities from the North which appeared to be signs for a satellite launch.
“North Korea launched what it claims to be a military reconnaissance satellite in a southern direction,” South Korea’s Joint Chief of Staff said in a statement late Tuesday.
The JSC has yet to provide details, including whether the test was successful, the location of the launch, or any flight data related to the launch.
However, Pyongyang’s state-run Korean Central News Agency claimed that the satellite was successfully launched into orbit.
“‘Chollima-1’ flew normally along the scheduled flight trajectory and accurately entered the reconnaissance satellite ‘Wangli-1’ into orbit at 22:54:13, 705 seconds after launch,” KCNA said.
“The launch of a reconnaissance satellite is [North Korea’s] legal right to strengthen its right to self-defense and will greatly contribute to firmly enhancing the war readiness of the Republic’s armed forces in line with the safety environment created in the country and surrounding areas due to the enemy’s dangerous military maneuvers,” the news agency said.
U.S. State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said the United States could not verify KCNA’s claim but condemned the launch as dangerous.
“I cannot confirm that assessment. It is still something that’s ongoing inside the United States government,” Miller said, before declining to comment on the security implications of Pyongyang possessing such a spy satellite.
“I can say that we condemn the DPRK’s unlawful launch of a military reconnaissance satellite today,” he added, saying it “violates multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions” by using ballistic missiles and “undermines stability and prosperity on the Korean peninsula.”
Rocket technology can be used for both launching satellites and missiles. For that reason, the U.N. bans North Korea from launching a ballistic rocket, even if it claims to be a satellite launch.
In August, North Korea failed for the second time to launch a satellite, three months after an unsuccessful first attempt.
On Monday, the JCS’s chief director of operations, Kang Ho-pil, strongly urged North Korea to cease the launch, vowing that Seoul would take the necessary counter measures.
South Korea is most likely to suspend the effectiveness of the 2018 inter-Korean military agreement, a military source, who asked for anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter, told Radio Free Asia late Tuesday. The person did not elaborate.
The two Koreas have agreed to halt what the other has defined as hostile actions toward one another near the border, but the North has conducted a number of provocations, violating the agreement. Critics in South Korea, thus, have long argued that the deal has already become ineffective, only serving to restrict Seoul’s operational and surveillance capabilities.
South Korea’s defense minister Shin Won-sik told reporters last month that the agreement has limited the South’s surveillance capability against North Korean provocations.
North Korea has been solidifying its ties with Russia, and South Korea’s National Intelligence Service said earlier this month that it is likely to have received help in obtaining satellite launch technology from Moscow.
The launch comes as South Korea’s President Yoon Suk Yeol is in London for his state visit to the United Kingdom, where he pledged to advance Seoul’s security ties with London.
North Korea has a history of provocations when South Korean presidents are abroad, seemingly to challenge Seoul’s response capabilities and the efficiency of its systems in the president’s absence.