North Korea promises fresh attempt at spy satellite launch

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North Korea’s Kim Yo Jong, leader Kim Jong Un’s sister, said her country would soon put a military spy satellite into orbit and promised Pyongyang would increase its military surveillance capabilities, state media KCNA reported on Thursday.

“It is certain that (North Korea’s) military reconnaissance satellite will be correctly put on space orbit in the near future and start its mission,” Kim, a powerful government official in her own right, said in an English-language statement carried by KCNA.

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Her remarks came after the failure of a North Korean satellite launch on Wednesday.

It may take weeks or more to resolve the problems that caused the rocket’s failure, a South Korean lawmaker said on Wednesday, citing the South’s intelligence agency.

In a rare admission of a North Korean setback, KCNA reported that the Chollima-1 rocket, carrying a military reconnaissance satellite known as “Malligyong-1”, crashed into the sea after an accident.

KCNA also published on Thursday images of what it said was the new rocket lifting off from a coastal launch pad. The white-and-gray rocket had a bulbous nose, apparently for carrying a satellite or other cargo.

The photos confirmed that the rocket is a new design, said Ankit Panda of the US-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

“The launch used the new coastal launch pad they’ve built at Tongchang-ri, so we might see a larger space launch vehicle use the traditional gantry that has seen some work recently,” he added.

US-based monitors, including 38 North and the Center for Strategic and International Studies, reported that commercial satellite imagery showed significant activity at the main pad after Wednesday’s launch.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said it could be presumed from North Korea’s state media photos that the rocket was launched from a new pad.

South Korea has dispatched ships and aircraft to recover parts from the space launch vehicle, the military said.

Wednesday’s launch was widely criticized, including by South Korea, Japan and the United States.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said any launch by Pyongyang using ballistic missile technology breaches Security Council resolutions, a spokesperson said.

In her statement, Kim said the criticisms of the launch were “self-contradiction” as the US and other countries have already launched “thousands of satellites.”

“The US is a group of gangsters who would claim that even if the DPRK launches a satellite ... it is illegal and threatening,” she said, using the initials of North Korea’s official name.

In a separate statement carried by KCNA, North Korea’s vice foreign minister Kim Son Gyong criticized US-led military drills in the region including a multinational anti-proliferation naval drill.

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