Seoul, Washington watching Pyongyang ahead of satellite launch

Update 1: Adds Washington, Seoul reactions, changes headline

Seoul, May 30 (EFE).- Seoul and Washington are monitoring Pyongyang’s movements after North Korea announced its plans Tuesday to launch a military reconnaissance satellite in June, a South Korean military spokesman said.

“The intelligence authorities of South Korea and the United States are closely watching for related movements in close coordination,” South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff Spokesman Han Sung-keun said during a news conference. “We are tracking and monitoring various possibilities of provocation, including North Korea’s claim of a so-called satellite (launch).”

Han’s words come hours after Pyongyang announced it plans to launch a military reconnaissance satellite in June.

The Japanese Coast Guard released a notification Monday from North Korea in which a series of zones were delimited to veto navigation in the Yellow Sea and next to the Philippine island of Luzon due to the launch of a North Korean satellite between Wednesday and June 11.

Those three areas are where the first and second stages of the space rocket and its fairing are expected to fall.

The Japanese army said they were ready to intercept the rocket or fragments if it falls on Japanese territory, adding to the deployment of Patriot ground batteries on several remote islands in Okinawa prefecture.

Asked about the possibility that South Korea might also be forced to intercept the rocket, Han declined to comment, arguing that he cannot reveal military information.

Both Seoul and Tokyo see the North Korean launch as actually a covert test of ballistic missile technology, something punishable by United Nations resolutions already weighing on the regime.

North Korea confirmed it would launch a spy satellite to surveil the United States’ and its allies’ military activity, which it considers a threat, state Korean Central News Agency reported.

The published statement put out by the vice president of the sole North Korean party’s Central Military Commission and key figure in the country’s missile program, Ri Pyong-chol said that “the DPRK’s military reconnaissance satellite No. 1 [is] to be launched in June.”

DPRK stands for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, North Korea’s official name.

The satellite “and various reconnaissance means due to be newly tested are indispensable to tracking, monitoring, discriminating, controlling and coping with in advance in real time the dangerous military acts of the U.S. and its vassal forces openly revealing their reckless ambition for aggression as time passes by and to strengthening the military preparedness of the armed forces of the DPRK,” it added.

In the statement attacking the military drills of the US and its allies in the region, and in which it accuses Washington of spying and threatening its sovereignty, North Korea pointed out that “we steadily feel the need to expand reconnaissance and information means and improve various defensive and offensive weapons.”

Pyongyang said it already has “the timetables for carrying out (…) development plans” for these weapons, without providing further details, and said that it will continue to analyze “present and future threats” and strengthen its war deterrence.

North Korea reported in April that it had completed preparations to launch a military reconnaissance satellite. Leader Kim Jong-un visited the facilities on several occasions in preparation.

Pyongyang has launched five space rockets with which it said it was looking to put observation satellites into orbit, the last one in February 2016.

The international community considered in each case that the regime was trying to covertly test ballistic missile technology, and no expert has ever picked up any sign of North Korean devices being deployed into Earth’s orbit.

Pyongyang has since tested numerous intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), the last one on April 13. EFE


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