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North Korea flags plan to launch satellite rocket between Nov 22 and Dec 1, Japan says

hwasong 18 icbm test launch
Hwasong-18 intercontinental ballistic missile is launched from an undisclosed location in North Korea in this image released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency on July 13, 2023. KCNA via REUTERS

North Korea has notified Japan of its plan to launch a rocket carrying a space satellite between Nov. 22 and Dec. 1 in the direction of the Yellow Sea and East China Sea, Japan’s Coast Guard said on Tuesday.

If carried out, it would mark a third attempt by the nuclear-armed state this year to put a spy satellite into orbit.

Two previous attempts to place what would be North Korea’s first spy satellite into orbit failed, and after the last attempt in August, North Korea’s scientists had promised to try again in October.

The launch would be the first since North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made a rare trip abroad in September and toured Russia’s most modern space launch centre, where President Vladimir Putin promised to help Pyongyang build satellites.

North Korea’s notice also follows its denouncement on Monday of the potential U.S. sale of hundreds of missiles to Japan and South Korea, calling it a dangerous act that raises tension in the region and brings a new arms race.

In that statement, carried by the KCNA news agency, the North’s defence ministry said Pyongyang would step up measures to establish deterrence and respond to instability in the region, which it said was caused by the U.S. and its allies.

Following North Korea’s notice of the satellite launch, the Japanese prime minister’s office said on social media X that the country would work with the U.S., South Korea and others to “strongly urge” North Korea not to go ahead with it.

Pyongyang has been seeking to place a military spy satellite into orbit, saying it plans a fleet of satellites to monitor moves by U.S. and South Korean troops.

North Korea launched a satellite on May 31 that ended up plunging into the sea. The new Chollima-1 launcher failed because of instability in the engine and fuel system, state news agency KCNA reported.

The country sought to accomplish the mission on August 24 but failed again after the rocket booster experienced a problem with its third stage.

The U.S. and its allies have called North Korea’s tests of satellite systems a clear violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions, which prohibit any development of technology applicable to North Korea’s ballistic missile programmes.

The North considers its space and military rocket programmes a sovereign right, and analysts say spy satellites are crucial to improving the effectiveness of its weapons.

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