North claims latest launch was to develop satellite technology
North Korea's state media said Sunday the country conducted a missile test the previous day to develop reconnaissance satellite technology.
“The DPRK National Aerospace Development Administration (NADA) and the Academy of Defence Science conducted another important test on Saturday under the plan of developing a reconnaissance satellite,” the state-controlled Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said in a short, two-paragraph English-language report, using the acronym for the country’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
According to the KCNA, NADA “confirmed the reliability of data transmission and reception system of the satellite, its control command system and various ground-based control systems.”
North Korea fired a ballistic missile toward the eastern waters off the Korean Peninsula on Saturday, four days before South Korea is set to hold a presidential election.
The launch was the country’s ninth such test this year, following seven in January alone and one purported satellite rocket run in February, which outsiders speculate was a test to further experiment with ballistic missile technology.
Under successive United Nations Security Council resolutions, the North is barred from conducting any tests of ballistic missile technology. Satellite launches typically require the same technology.
Saturday’s missile test was conducted from Sunan, near Pyongyang. South Korean military authorities said shortly after the launch that the missile flew about 270 kilometers (168 miles), reaching a maximum altitude of 560 km.
While the North has previously defended its attempts to place satellites into orbit as its right to a “peaceful” space program, outside observers have noted strange details about missile tests it claimed were for that purpose.
In the Feb. 27 test — the first this year that the North’s state media described as part of a space development program — the missile launched was fitted with a camera similar to the one placed atop the nose of the Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missile fired on Jan. 30.
Noting the flight details of Saturday’s missile, Jeffrey Lewis, a researcher at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, called the test “another weird one” on Twitter, repeating his sentiment about the earlier Feb. 27 test, which he said seemed more akin to a test of “the camera on a missile fired on a suborbital trajectory.”
The latest test by Pyongyang comes as the reclusive regime hinted in January that it may “restart all previously suspended activities” in apparent reference to its self-imposed moratorium on nuclear and long-range ballistic missile (ICBM) tests, which it implemented in late 2017.
Continued tests of ballistic missile technology could enable the North to eventually attempt an ICBM launch, demonstrating its ability to strike the mainland United States and thereby gain leverage in future negotiations with Washington.
However, the development of a reconnaissance satellite itself is also among the defense goals announced by the North during a major congress of the ruling Korean Workers’ Party in January last year.
South Korea’s National Security Council convened an emergency meeting shortly after Saturday’s launch and issued a condemnation, calling for the North to stop raising tensions on the peninsula.
The test was also condemned by the U.S. State Department, which in an e-mail to Yonhap called the test “a clear violation of multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions, and demonstrates the threat the DPRK's illicit weapons of mass destruction and missile programs pose to the DPRK's neighbors and the region as a whole.”
BY MICHAEL LEE [firstname.lastname@example.org]