North Korea plans first spy satellite launch, Japan threatens to shoot it down

In response, Japan has put its missile defense on alert.
Ameya Paleja
An illustration of a space launch system on launchpad
An illustration of a space launch system on launchpad


North Korea has notified its neighboring country Japan about its plans to launch a satellite in the coming few days, AP reported. The launch is expected between May 31 and June 11 and is seen as North Korea's attempt to put a military reconnaissance satellite into orbit.

A satellite launch would require North Korea to use long-range missile technology, which contradicts the restrictions by the U.N. Security Council. Pyongyang has, however, maintained that such restrictions do not limit a satellite launch under a civilian space program.

The U.S. and its allies in the region believe that North Korea carries out missile tests under the guise of such launches, and the technology from the space program could be used to further North Korea's ballistic missiles.

North Korea's upcoming launch

As per reports, North Korea has warned Japan about the launch since the trajectory is over the waters of the Yellow Sea and the East China Sea and would require it to pass over islands in the Japanese southwest. This is also where the U.S. has many bases and thousands of troops.

Pyongyang has been extensively testing missiles since earlier this year, and Japan has been on standby to shoot down falling debris. Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada has instructed the Self-Defense Force to take down any satellite or debris that enters Japanese territory, A.P. said in its report.

North Korea plans first spy satellite launch, Japan threatens to shoot it down
North Korea is advancing its missile technology to counter threats from US and allies

Japan has urged North Korea to refrain from such a launch and assured it would take "destructive measures" against ballistic or any other missile that will land in its territory. The country said it would deploy the  Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) or Patriot Missile PAC-3 to take down the North Korean missile.

North Korea has been carrying out extensive missile tests in recent months, which also included a new solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile. Earlier this month, Kim Jong Un recently visited a facility where the country's first spy satellite was being assembled, which set into motion talks about a space rocket launch.

The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) had then reported that the satellite was a "military reconnaissance" purpose and would help keep an eye on the U.S. forces and allies in Asia, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported.

Before this, North Korea put Earth observation satellites into orbit in 2012 and 2016 and notified neighbors of such launches. Foreign experts believe that these satellites could not send back imagery, and even the newer devices looked too crude and small to support high-resolution images.

South Korea, too, has joined Japan in denouncing North Korea's planned launch, while the U.S. has said that it will help collect and analyze information from the launch.

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