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North Korea launches rocket after warning of spy satellite plans

North Korea has attempted to launch its first military spy satellite – sparking emergency alerts in neighbouring South Korea and in Japan.

Air raid sirens sounded off across South Korea’s capital Seoul on Wednesday morning, while Japan also issued a missile warning following the launch of a rocket from North Korea’s northwestern Tongchang-ri area.

It comes after Pyongyang announced plans to launch its first military spy satellite – which it said would be used to monitor US activity.

A TV screen displays a warning message called ‘J-alert’ in the response to a rocket launch in North Korea

The country’s state-controlled news agency KCNA reported on Wednesday that the launch of the satellite had failed and that the rocket had crashed into the Yellow Sea.


It said officials would investigate the “grave” defects – believed to have involved the rocket’s engine and fuel system – and that a second launch would take place soon.

On Wednesday, the US condemned the launch attempt – which it said involved the use of ballistic missile technology – and that Joe Biden and his security team were assessing the situation in coordination with allies.

This satellite picture by Planet Labs PBC shows the Sohae Satellite Launching Station near Tongchang-ri, North Korea, Tuesday, May 30, 2023. Satellite images taken Tuesday analyzed by The Associated Press showed activity at a main pad at North Korea's Sohae Satellite Launching Station ... suggesting the satellite's blast off would be soon. (Planet Labs PBC via AP)
A satellite image of North Korea’s Sohae Satellite Launching Station near Tongchang-ri. Pic: AP

South Korea’s military described Wednesday’s rocket by its neighbour as a “space-launch vehicle”.

It also said that it had recorded an “abnormal flight” before the rocket plunged into the sea.

Officials in South Korea’s capital of Seoul sent alerts over public speakers and smartphones for residents to prepare for evacuation following the launch.

However, there were no immediate reports of damages or disruption.

The Japanese government also issued an emergency warning over its J-Alert broadcasting system for its Okinawa region following the rocket’s launch. Authorities later lifted the alert.

However, Japan’s defence minister, Yasukazu Hamada, said the country would keep its missile defence system on alert as a result of the launch attempt.

Read more:
Kim Jong Un’s sister warns of more military drills
North Korea missile launch sparks panic

It comes after Japan’s coast guard said on Monday that it had been informed by North Korea of a plan to launch a satellite between 31 May and 11 June.

A satellite launch by North Korea is a violation of UN Security Council resolutions that ban the country from using ballistic technology because it is regarded as a cover for missile tests.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his daughter Kim Ju Ae meet with members of the Non-permanent Satellite Launch Preparatory Committee, as he inspects the country's first military reconnaissance satellite, in Pyongyang, North Korea
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his daughter Kim Ju Ae examined the country’s first spy satellite earlier this month

Earlier this month, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his daughter were pictured examining the country’s first military spy satellite.

During his visit, Kim approved an unspecified “future action plan” in preparations for launching the satellite, North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.

Wednesday’s flight was North Korea’s sixth satellite launch attempt, and the first since 2016.


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