Tokyo, Seoul criticize Pyongyang’s ‘satellite launch’ as cover for missile test

(Update 1: adds details)

Tokyo, May 29 (EFE).- Japan and South Korea on Monday condemned North Korea’s planned launch of a spy satellite as a covert attempt by Pyongyang to test its ballistic missiles that could pose a serious threat to regional peace and security, while also violating United Nations’ resolutions.

Pyongyang had on Monday notified Japan of its plan to launch a satellite between May 31 and June 11, whose debris may fall in three maritime zones to the west of the Korean Peninsula and east of the Philippines, according to the Japanese authorities.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida criticized Pyongyang’s planned launch of the satellite and said it would be a “serious issue that affects the people’s safety” and urged Pyongyang to “exercise self-restraint” and cancel the launch.

Kishida’s chief cabinet secretary, Hirokazu Matsuno, said North Korea’s satellite launch was a pretext to further test its ballistic missiles, which Tokyo considers “a serious provocation”.

Matsuno said the North Korea projectile could fly over Japan’s territory, which includes the Nansei Islands that extend southwest from Kyushu towards Taiwan, an area which houses around thirty United States military bases.

The Japanese defense ministry said it had already deployed ground-based Patriot anti-missile systems to the remote Islands around southern prefecture of Okinawa to join Aegis-equipped destroyer warships and would use these capabilities to destroy the North Korean missile if it flies over or falls into Japanese territory.

South Korea also warned Pyongyang that it “will pay a price” if it goes ahead with its planned launch.

A government spokesperson, Lim Soo-suk, called the planned test a “provocative action that threatens regional peace.”

North Korea first unveiled a plan to launch its first military reconnaissance satellite in December.

Later, state media announced that on Apr. 18, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un visited the country’s military aerospace development center where he examined the finished satellite that was ready to be loaded into a space rocket.

During his visit, Kim instructed his country’s space agency to make final preparations for the satellite’s launch, according to the official press coverage.

North Korea has so far launched five space rockets, the last one in 2016, and has emphasized that it aims to deploy its military reconnaissance satellite into orbit.

However, the international community considers Pyongyang’s space program a covert effort to test and improve its ballistic missile technology.

The regime has repeatedly tested various missiles in recent months, including a new type of the Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) that was tested on Apr. 13, following which Kim gave the go-ahead for the satellite launch.

The leader has described Pyongyang’s space-launch as “an urgent requirement of the prevailing security environment of the country,” and a step to improve the country’s space research sector. EFE


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