North Korea has informed Japan of its intention to launch a satellite-carrying rocket between November 22 and December 1, aimed towards the Yellow Sea and East China Sea, as reported by Japan's Coast Guard on Tuesday, November 21.
This potential launch would mark the country's third attempt this year to place a surveillance satellite into orbit. The notification drew swift condemnation from Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who emphasized the readiness of Japan's defense systems, including Aegis destroyers and PAC-3 air defense missiles, in case of any unforeseen circumstances.
Kishida expressed concerns regarding the use of ballistic missile technology for satellite launches, highlighting its infringement on several United Nations Security Council resolutions and its significant impact on national security. He also stated Japan's collaboration with the United States, South Korea, and other nations to strongly discourage North Korea from proceeding with the launch.
Earlier this year, North Korea attempted satellite launches twice, both of which ended in failure. Recent indications from South Korean officials suggested another imminent attempt by North Korea.
The secretive state has informed Japan, as the coordinating authority for the International Maritime Organization in those waters, about its launch plans on all three occasions.
This announcement follows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's rare visit to Russia's advanced space launch center in September, during which President Vladimir Putin pledged assistance to Pyongyang in satellite development.
Additionally, North Korea criticized the potential US sale of hundreds of missiles to Japan and South Korea, deeming it a provocative move that escalates tension in the region and fosters an arms race. The North's defense ministry highlighted intentions to enhance deterrence and respond to perceived instability in the region, which it attributed to the US and its allies.
As of now, South Korea's defense ministry has not issued a response to inquiries made before business hours, and North Korea has yet to formally announce its plan via official media.
Pyongyang has persistently pursued the deployment of military spy satellites to monitor activities of US and South Korean forces. While past attempts to launch "observation" satellites were made, doubts remain regarding their functionality, despite claims of successful orbiting in 2016.
The North views its space and military rocket programs as sovereign rights, with analysts underscoring the significance of spy satellites in enhancing its weaponry's effectiveness.
If the launch proceeds, it would coincide with South Korea's scheduled launch of its inaugural reconnaissance satellite, aided by the US and set to take place on November 30 using a SpaceX Falcon-9 rocket from the Vandenberg base of the US military.