Spy satellite launch goes wrong for North Korea again

The launch violated UN resolutions and used ballistic missile technology.
Rizwan Choudhury
Chollima-1 rocket, which carries the Malligyong-1 satellite.
Chollima-1 rocket, which carries the Malligyong-1 satellite.

Source: KCNA via KNS, Credits: ASSOCIATED PRESS 

A second failed attempt by North Korea to place a spy satellite into orbit has stirred concerns across the region, with world leaders condemning the launch. The Chollima-1, the newly developed satellite vehicle rocket, is at the heart of North Korea's ambitious space program, but its journey has been far from successful.

Another failed attempt

The rocket broke into pieces due to a malfunction in the third stage of the combustion process, before falling into the waters of the Yellow Sea, the East China Sea, and the Pacific Ocean early on Thursday (August 24), Japan’s Deputy Defence Minister Kimi Onoda said.

As per a Reuters report, the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported the incident on Thursday, revealing a broken rocket tumbling into the waters. Last week, South Korea’s spy agency said it saw signs that North Korea was getting ready for the test flights of long-range missiles and other dangerous weapons. On Monday, KCNA reported that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had watched the test firings of strategic cruise missiles.

This failure comes after the first unsuccessful attempt in May when the rocket crashed into the sea soon after liftoff. Pyongyang has announced plans for another attempt in October, showcasing resilience and a commitment to its technological goals.

Evacuation, International condemnation, and Security Concerns

The dawn launch on Thursday failed due to an error in the emergency blasting system during the third-stage flight, the report explained. This failure led to the rocket breaking into multiple parts before its descent.

The launch triggered an emergency evacuation order for residents of Japan’s southern Okinawa region, which was later lifted. Japan said it had received an email from North Korea on Tuesday, informing it of the planned launch of a satellite towards the Yellow Sea and East China Sea between August 24 and 31. The launch area was outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone.

The launch drew sharp criticism from Japan, South Korea, and the United States. Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno spoke of Japan's strong protests, condemning the launch in the "strongest terms" as it involved ballistic missile technology, which is a violation of UN Security Council resolutions.

South Korea's National Security Council and the US National Security Council echoed similar sentiments. The latter went as far as to label the launch a "brazen violation" of UN resolutions, raising concerns over the security situation in the region and beyond.

The events have led to a renewed commitment to cooperation among the United States, Japan, and South Korea. Following the meeting at Camp David, the three countries have pledged to work together to counter nuclear threats from North Korea.

South Korea terming the debris as a rudimentary design

The South Korean military said the satellite was too primitive to perform its intended function, even if it had reached orbit. After salvaging the debris, South Korean military officials declared that the design of the latest satellite was too rudimentary to perform its functions even if launched successfully. This raises questions about North Korea's capabilities and intentions, making the October launch an event to watch closely.

The North Korean perspective

North Korea's 75th foundation day on September 9 is expected to be marked with a military parade, making the timing of the successful launch crucial. It would have been a significant boost for Kim Jong Un. However, with two consecutive failures, the celebration might have to wait.

North Korea has launched about 100 missiles since the beginning of 2022, showing off its military might. North Korea claims its weapons tests are to strengthen its nuclear deterrent against the growing U.S.-led military threats. However, many experts believe that North Korea wants to upgrade its weapons arsenal to gain more bargaining power with the U.S.

North Korea's aspirations in space technology have been marred by consecutive failures and international condemnation. The story of Chollima-1, a satellite intended to soar but ended in pieces, mirrors the challenges faced by the nation in its pursuit of technological advancement and regional acceptance. The coming months, especially the planned October launch, are poised to shape the future trajectory of North Korea's space ambitions, and possibly, its standing on the international stage.

AP has contributed to this report.

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