North Korea tells Japan of launch plan, a possible second try to put up spy satellite

North Korea tells Japan of launch plan, a possible second try to put up spy satellite

TOKYO — North Korea told Japan on Tuesday it plans to launch a satellite in the coming days, possibly a second try to put a military spy satellite into orbit three months after its first effort failed, Japanese officials said.

In late May, a North Korean rocket carrying a spy satellite plunged into the sea soon after liftoff, posing a setback to leader Kim Jong Un’s push to establish a space-based surveillance system to better monitor the U.S. and South Korea. North Korea vowed to make a second attempt after studying what went wrong with the first launch.

Japan’s coast guard said North Korean authorities notified it about a plan to launch a satellite from Aug. 24 and the end of Aug. 30. Coast guard spokesperson Hiromune Kikuchi said that the notice didn’t specify what type of satellite North Korea intends to launch but that he believes it possibly referrs to one similar to the spy satellite in the May launch.

The North Korean notice mentioned three maritime zones that could be affected by its launch – one off the Korean Peninsula’s west coast, the other in the East China Sea and the third east of the Philippine island of Luzon. Japan issued safety warnings for vessels passing through the three areas, according to “emergency information” posted on the website of the Japanese coast guard.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida instructed related government agencies to analyze the plan as much as possible and coordinate with the United States and South Korea to urge Pyongyang not to carry out the launch, according to Japan’s Kyodo News.

The North’s reported launch plan comes as North Korea is expected to extend its provocative run of missile tests in reaction to the annual U.S.-South Korean military drills that began Monday for a 11-day run. North Korea views calls the regular U.S.-South Korean military exercises a rehearsal for invasion.

The “Ulchi Freedom Shield” drills are computer-simulated command post training. During this year’s training period, the U.S. and South Korean militaries also plan more than 30 field training exercises.

On Friday, the leaders of the U.S., South Korea and Japan met for their first stand-alone trilateral summit at Camp David and agreed on a set of steps to increase their defense cooperation to deal with North Korea’s increasing nuclear and military threats.

North Korea’s state media warned Tuesday that its rivals’ drills are deepening the danger of a nuclear war on the Korean Peninsula.

“If the agreements fabricated at the Camp David Resort are additionally put into practice in the war drill involving human and material resources of the U.S. and other hostile forces and even the vassal forces, the possibility of outbreak of a thermonuclear war on the Korean Peninsula will become more realistic,” the North’s official Korean Central News Agency said.

It said the current, prevailing situation is compelling North Korea to take “offensive, overwhelming” steps, but didn’t elaborate.

On Monday, KCNA said leader Kim Jong Un had watched the test launches of strategic cruise missiles and underscored the need to bolster efforts to modernize naval weapons systems.

Since the start of 2022, North Korea has carried out more than 100 weapons tests, some of them involving nuclear-capable missiles designed to strike the U.S. mainland, South Korea and Japan. North Korea says it had no other option than to boost weapons testing activities as a response to the expansion of U.S.-South Korea military training. Washington and Seoul say their drills are defensive in nature.

South Korea’s spy agency said last week that North Korea was taking steps needed for the test flights of intercontinental ballistic missiles and shorter-range nuclear-capable missiles as well as a spy satellite launch.

A spy satellite is among an array of high-tech weapons systems that North Korea’s leader has publicly vowed to acquire to cope with what he describes as intensifying U.S.-led hostility.

A North Korean satellite launch aboard a rocket would violate U.N. Security Council resolutions that ban the country from engaging in any ballistic activities. The United States, South Korea and others condemned the North’s first spy satellite launch for raising tensions.

The failed launch in May also caused security jitters in the region, with South Korea and Japan briefly warning people in some areas to take shelter, though there were no reports of damages.

In July, wrapping up its investigation of the retrieved wreckage of the North Korean satellite rocket, South Korea’s military said the satellite wasn’t advanced enough to conduct military reconnaissance from space as North Korea claimed.

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