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North Korea launches spy ‘military satellite’, Seoul says

North Korea has launched what it says is a military spy satellite toward the South, the South Korean military said Tuesday, after Pyongyang warned Japan of an imminent launch, defying warnings from Seoul and UN resolutions prohibiting it from using ballistic missile technologies.

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“North Korea has launched what it claims is a military surveillance satellite in the direction of the South,” the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff said.

Japan, for its part, reported the launch of a missile by North Korea, which Prime Minister Fumio Kishida condemned with “the greatest possible firmness”. “We have already strongly protested against North Korea,” Mr. Kishida added from his office in Tokyo.

“At the moment we are waiting to find out if there has been any damage. And even if they call it a satellite, launching something that uses ballistic missile technology is clearly a violation of United Nations resolutions,” the Prime Minister said.

“This is an important situation that affects the security of the Japanese people. We will continue to gather information and remain vigilant,” he continued.

When the launch was announced, the Japanese government briefly ordered residents of the Okinawa region, in the southwest of the archipelago, to take shelter.

North Korea had earlier informed Japan of its intention to launch a satellite potentially as early as Wednesday according to Tokyo, in a third attempt after two failures to put a military satellite into orbit last May and August.

Likely “countermeasures” from Seoul

North Korea in August designated three maritime areas likely to be affected by the planned launch at the time: two in the Yellow Sea, west of the Korean Peninsula, and a third in waters to the east. of the Philippines.

“The danger zones mentioned by North Korea this time correspond to those announced during their planned satellite launch in August,” commented a South Korean official, quoted by the Yonhap news agency.

Seoul has been warning for weeks that Pyongyang is in the “final stages” of preparing for a new spy satellite launch.

On Monday, the South Korean military warned North Korea to “immediately” stop its preparations for such an operation, warning Pyongyang that it would take “necessary measures” if necessary.

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol could thus “suspend the September 19 military agreement,” Yang Moo-jin, president of the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, told AFP.

This agreement, concluded in 2018 in Pyongyang, aims to reduce military tensions along the highly secure inter-Korean border by creating maritime “buffer zones”

Tests of medium- or long-range solid-fuel ballistic missiles by Seoul “cannot be ruled out” either, Mr. Yang added.

American aircraft carrier

North Korea’s recent rapprochement with Russia worries the United States and its allies South Korea and Japan.

According to Seoul, Pyongyang supplies weapons to Moscow in exchange for Russian space technology.

At the beginning of November, American Secretary of State Antony Blinken denounced the “growing and dangerous” military ties between Pyongyang and Moscow, following a visit to South Korea.

North Korea has carried out a record number of missile tests this year, despite international sanctions and warnings from the United States, South Korea and their allies.

It also declared its status as a nuclear power “irreversible”.

Last week, it announced that it had successfully conducted ground tests of a “new type” of solid fuel engine for its banned intermediate-range ballistic missiles (IRBMs).

Seoul, Washington and Tokyo have strengthened their defense cooperation in the face of this situation. On Tuesday, a U.S. nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, the USS Carl Vinson, arrived at the Busan Naval Base, South Korea.

This arrival should strengthen the “position of the allies in response to nuclear and missile threats from North Korea”, as part of a recent agreement aimed at improving the “regular visibility of American strategic assets”, underlined the South Navy -Korean.

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