The rocket was fired south from the Tongchang-ri area, home to the North’s main satellite launch complex, Sohae, according to the South Korean military. Image courtesy of Reuters
According to South Korea and Japan, North Korea launched a rocket on Tuesday that would carry a satellite. This would be Pyongyang’s third attempt this year to launch its first spy satellite into orbit.
After two failed attempts to launch what it claimed were spy satellites earlier this year, North Korea had already informed Japan of its intention to send a satellite between Wednesday and December 1.
Officials in Seoul and Tokyo said they could not immediately confirm whether a satellite had been launched into orbit.
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Tuesday’s launch will be the first since Russian President Vladimir Putin promised to help Pyongyang build satellites during a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in September at Russia’s cutting-edge space complex.
South Korean officials said the move most likely involved technical support from Moscow as part of a growing collaboration that has seen North Korea transport millions of artillery shells to Russia. North Korea and Russia have acknowledged the absence of such arms sales, but have publicly pledged to strengthen cooperation.
The rocket was fired south from the Tongchang-ri area, home to the North’s main satellite launch complex, Sohae, according to the South Korean military. It is believed to be carrying a reconnaissance satellite.
To protect southern citizens from the potential threat of a North Korean missile, the Japanese government has issued an emergency warning.
Using its emergency radio system, the Japanese government advised Okinawa citizens to take shelter underground or in buildings. Public broadcaster NHK cited a Japanese Defense Ministry official as saying the missile was likely a satellite.
He later claimed that around 10:55 p.m. the missile appeared to have flown over and past Okinawa toward the Pacific Ocean, and that he had canceled his emergency alert.
Citing a researcher from the nuclear-armed state’s space agency, North Korean state media KCNA said Tuesday it was the nation’s “sovereign right” to strengthen its military power against space surveillance system led by the United States and that the creation of military satellites by Pyongyang was justified.
Japan’s Fumio Kishida reiterated to the media upon arriving at the prime minister’s office that North Korea’s launch constituted a violation of UN Security Council resolutions and a threat to the safety of Japanese citizens.
(With contributions from the agency)