North Korea is believed to have launched a missile as sirens sounded in South Korea and Japan and fears Kim Jong Un had launched a ballistic missile.
Alarms were heard in the South Korean capital of Seoul early today as officials broadcast warnings through public speakers and smartphones to residents to prepare for the evacuation.
However, there were no reports of damage or major disruption and Seoul later lifted the warning.
The rocket was launched around 6:30 a.m. from the northwestern Tongchang-ri region in the north, where the country’s main space launch center is located, the joint chiefs of staff said in a statement.
This comes a day after North Korea announced a plan to put its first military spy satellite into orbit, the South Korean military said.
This satellite image from Planet Labs PBC shows the Sohae satellite launch station near Tongchang-ri, North Korea on Tuesday
This photo provided by the North Korean government purportedly shows a test of a rocket carrying the test satellite at the Sohae satellite launch site in North Korea on December 18, 2022. The content of this image is as provided and cannot be independently verified.
The Japanese government has activated a “J-Alert” missile warning system for Okinawa Prefecture in southwest Japan, which is believed to be in the path of the missile, which North Korea said was carrying a satellite.
“Please evacuate indoors or underground,” the warning said. It was also broadcast on public television NHK.
The Japan Coast Guard said Monday North Korea had informed them of plans to launch a satellite between May 31 and June 11. Japan’s defense minister had ordered his forces to shoot down the satellite or debris if any got into Japanese territory.
A satellite launch by North Korea violates UN Security Council resolutions banning the country from using ballistic technology because it is seen as a cover for missile tests.
Ri Pyong Chol, a senior North Korean official and a close confidante of ruler Kim Jong Un, had said on Tuesday that North Korea was being forced to ensure “a reliable intelligence and intelligence system” due to allegedly increasing security threats from the United States and its allies. He said the North will launch a spy satellite in June.
It wasn’t immediately clear whether a North Korean spy satellite would significantly strengthen its defenses. The satellite, released in the country’s state-run media, did not appear to be sophisticated enough to produce high-resolution images. However, some experts point out that it is likely still capable of detecting troop movements and large targets like warships and fighter jets.
Recent commercial satellite imagery of the North’s main missile launch center in the northwest showed active construction activity, but suggests North Korea plans to launch more than one satellite.
And in his statement Tuesday, Ri said the country will test “various reconnaissance tools.”
An alert called “J-Alert” is displayed on a television screen after the Japanese government issued an emergency alert for residents of southern Okinawa Prefecture, saying a missile from North Korea had been fired in Tokyo, Japan this morning
He said these surveillance assets are tasked with “tracking, monitoring, discriminating, controlling” and responding to actions by the United States and its allies both in advance and in real time.
According to Lee Choon Geun, an honorary research fellow at South Korea’s Science and Technology Policy Institute, North Korea could use three to five spy satellites to build a space-based surveillance system that would allow it to monitor the Korean Peninsula in near real time.
During his visit to the country’s aerospace agency earlier this month, Kim underscored the strategic importance that a spy satellite could have in the North Korea-US-South Korea conflict.
The satellite is one of several high-tech weapons systems that Kim has publicly promised to launch in recent years. Other weapons he has pledged to develop include a missile with multiple warheads, a nuclear submarine, a solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile, and a hypersonic missile.
Denuclearization talks with the US have stalled since early 2019. Meanwhile, Kim has focused on expanding its nuclear and missile arsenals in what experts say is an attempt to wring concessions from Washington and Seoul.
Since early 2022, North Korea has conducted more than 100 missile tests, many with nuclear weapons, targeting the US mainland, South Korea and Japan.
North Korea says its testing activities are self-defense measures designed to respond to expanded military exercises between Washington and Seoul, which it considers invasion rehearsals. US and South Korean officials say their exercises are defensive and have been stepped up to deal with the growing nuclear threat from North Korea.