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North Korean rocket carrying its 2nd spy satellite explodes shortly after launch

SEOUL, South Korea — A rocket launched by North Korea to deploy the country’s second spy satellite exploded shortly after takeoff Monday, state media reported, a setback for leader Kim Jong Un’s hopes of deploying satellites to monitor the United States and South Korea.

Monday’s failed launch came hours after the leaders of South Korea, China and Japan met in Seoul in their first trilateral meeting in more than four years. It is highly unusual for North Korea to take provocative steps while China, its main ally and economic pipeline, engages in high-level diplomacy in the region.

The launch has drawn criticism from northern neighbors as the United Nations bans North Korea from carrying out such launches, viewing them as a cover for testing long-range missile technology.

North Korea’s official news agency said it had launched a spy satellite aboard a new rocket from its main space center in the northwest. But KCNA said the rocket exploded during a first flight shortly after liftoff due to a suspected engine problem.

KCNA cited the unidentified vice director of the National Aerospace Technology Administration as saying that a preliminary examination showed that the explosion was related to the operational reliability of the new liquid oxygen and petroleum engine. He said other possible causes would be investigated, according to KCNA.

The Japanese government briefly issued a missile alert for the southern prefecture of Okinawa, urging residents to take shelter inside buildings and other safer locations. The warning was later lifted because the region was no longer in danger, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshimasa Hayashi said.

Earlier on Monday, North Korea informed the Japanese coast guard of its planned launch, warning them to exercise caution in waters between the Korean Peninsula and China and east of the main Philippine island of Luzon during a launch window from Monday to June 3.

North Korea has firmly asserted that it has the right to launch satellites and test missiles.

Japanese Defense Minister Minoru Kihara called the North Korean launch a “serious challenge for the whole world.” South Korea’s Unification Ministry called the North’s satellite launch “a provocation that seriously threatens our security and that of the region.”

During the trilateral meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Chinese Premier Li Qiang earlier Monday, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol called for tough international action if North Korea goes ahead with its launch plan.

Kishida, for his part, urged the North to withdraw its launch plan, but Li did not mention the launch plan, offering general comments on promoting peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula through a political resolution.

Some observers say North Korea’s satellite launch on the first day of its eight-day window may have been intended to chill the Seoul-Beijing-Tokyo meeting and express displeasure at towards China. Kim has embraced the idea of ​​a “new Cold War” and seeks to strengthen ties with Beijing and Moscow to forge a united front against Washington. Chinese diplomacy with Seoul and Tokyo could therefore have constituted a worrying development for Pyongyang.

Kim’s main concern in recent months has been Russia, as Pyongyang and Moscow – both engaged in confrontations with Washington – expand military cooperation. China, much more sensitive to its international reputation, has joined Russia in blocking U.S.-led efforts at the U.N. Security Council to strengthen sanctions against the North, but has been less bold and less open in its support of Kim’s “new Cold War” campaign.

North Korea’s Foreign Ministry sharply criticized a joint statement issued by Li, Yoon and Kishida on Monday, calling it “wanton interference in its internal affairs.” The ministry took issue with parts of the joint statement that the three leaders reaffirmed their existing positions on the issue of denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

Although North Korea has focused much of its criticism on South Korea, which is accused of being primarily responsible for the statement, it is still extremely rare for North Korea to criticize a statement signed by China.

The satellite launch failure is a blow to Kim’s plan to launch three more military spy satellites in 2024, in addition to his country’s first military reconnaissance satellite, which was placed into orbit last November.

The November launch followed two failed takeoffs.

News Source : www.nbcnews.com
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