North Korea Made Second Unsuccessful Bid to Launch Spy Satellite

North Korea said that its second attempt to put a spy satellite in orbit failed early Thursday morning.

(Bloomberg) — North Korea said that its second attempt to put a spy satellite in orbit failed early Thursday morning. 

The official announcement by the state-run KCNA media service came after Japan’s Coast Guard had said the launch may have been a ballistic missile. 

Residents in Okinawa were warned to take shelter, according to a tweet from the Japanese prime minister’s office, although the alert was later lifted.

North Korea sought to launch the spy satellite after it failed in its first attempt at the end of May. At about 3:50 a.m, North Korea fired what it claimed was a “space launch vehicle” in a southward direction from North Pyongyan Province, according to South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff. 

The launch coincided with joint military drills by South Korea and the US that run through the end of this month and prompted Pyongyang this week to issue a threat to retaliate against the exercises it sees as a prelude to invasion.

Thursday’s launch didn’t succeed because of unspecified third-stage flight issues, according to the KCNA report. It said North Korea is now aiming for a third attempt in October.

The Japanese government had received notification from North Korea that it intended to launch a satellite between Aug. 24 and Aug. 31, officials said Tuesday. The Japanese Coast Guard was informed of three possible maritime danger zones pertaining to the launch — two west of the Korean Peninsula and the third east of the Philippines’ island of Luzon.

Read more: North Korea Eyes Satellite Launch as US-S.Korea Hold Drills

That would indicate that North Korea intended a southernly flight path similar to the one used in the failed attempt to put a satellite into orbit in May. In that instance, the country fired off its Chollima-1 rocket in its first space launch in about seven years, only to see it fail a few minutes after takeoff due to apparent problems with the ignition of its second stage, sending debris into the Yellow Sea.

Japan and South Korea called on North Korea to halt its plans for a launch, saying the move would violate United Nations resolutions. 

North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un has said he wants to put a spy satellite into orbit to keep an eye on US forces deployed in the region. While officials in Seoul believe such a satellite would be rudimentary at best, it could help Pyongyang refine its targeting lists as it rolls out new missiles designed to deliver nuclear strikes in South Korea and Japan, which host the bulk of America’s military personnel in the region.

North Korea is barred by United Nations Security Council resolutions from conducting ballistic missile tests, but Pyongyang has long claimed it’s entitled to a civilian space program for satellite launches. The US and its partners have warned that technology derived from North Korea’s space program could be used to advance its ballistic missiles.

South Korea salvaged the failed North Korean spy satellite from the sea, giving it a rare direct look at Pyongyang’s capabilities even as it concluded that the technology had little military value.

But Pyongyang’s space program has diminished in importance over the years as the state greatly enhanced its ability to build intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads that could strike the US.

North Korea had already fired 24 ballistic missiles so far this year, which included four ICBMs. The country fired off more than 70 ballistic missiles last year, a record for the state. 

The South Korean military said Wednesday it has raised its alertness and is maintaining full readiness in close coordination with the US.

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