North Korea has fired a “suspected ballistic missile” into the Pacific Ocean in the country’s latest provocation towards South Korea and Japan.
A spokesperson for the Japanese government said the possible ballistic missile crashed into the sea at around 4am local time (8pm GMT) – but was heading in the direction of Japan’s Okinawa Prefecture.
However, South Korea’s military said Pyongyang launched a long-range rocket in a southerly direction in a likely second attempt to put a spy satellite into orbit.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement the launch involved what the North called “a space launch vehicle”.
It has since been reported that North Korea has admitted the launch failed – but officials have vowed to try again in October.
North Korea has launched a “suspected ballistic missile,” Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s office wrote Thursday on X, formerly known as Twitter.
It was not immediately clear what type of missile might have been launched, but the Kyodo agency, citing the government in Tokyo, said the projectile was overflying Japan.
The launch came on the first day of a window Pyongyang had told Japanese officials was reserved for a satellite launch.
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It said Seoul detected the rocket flying over international waters off the Korean peninsula’s west coast after its lift-off at the North’s northwestern Tongchang-ri area at 3.50am local time.
The site is where North Korea’s main space launch centre is based. Pyongyang made its first launch of a spy satellite there in late May, though that attempt also failed.
South Korea’s military said it has bolstered its surveillance posture and maintains a readiness in close coordination with the United States.
Japan’s coast guard said on Tuesday (August 22) that North Korean authorities had notified it about a plan to launch a satellite at some time from August 24-30.
Coast guard spokesperson Hiromune Kikuchi said the notice didn’t specify the type of satellite, but he believed it would be similar to North Korea’s May launch.
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A North Korean rocket carrying a spy satellite plunged into the sea soon after lift-off on May 31, posing a setback to Kim Jong Un’s push to establish a space-based surveillance system to better monitor the US and South Korea.
Pyongyang vowed to make a second attempt.
After the failed first launch, North Korea made an unusually quick admission of failure after its newly developed Chollima-1 rocket lost thrust between launch stages and crashed into the sea.
The North’s ruling party leadership described the failed launch as a serious setback in the country’s efforts to bolster its military capabilities amid tensions with rivals.
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North Korea’s neighbors and the United States condemned the May launch for raising tensions and violating U.N. Security Council resolutions which ban the country from using ballistic missile technology.
Today’s launch came days after the US and South Korean militaries kicked off annual military drills which North Korea calls a rehearsal for invasion.
North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency said the US-South Korean exercises are increasing the danger of a nuclear war on the Korean peninsula.
It said the current situation is compelling Pyongyang to take “offensive, overwhelming” steps, but did not elaborate.
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