North Korean spy satellite launch fails as South Koreans woken by air raid siren and told to evacuate in 'false alarm'

31 May 2023, 06:20

The North Korean rocket launch failed
The North Korean rocket launch failed. Picture: Getty

By Kit Heren

North Korea failed in its attempt to launch the country's first spy satellite into space on Wednesday.

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The satellite, which the rogue state said it would use to monitor US military activity, will be followed by a second launch after an investigation, North Korea said.

The failure was a setback to leader Kim Jong Un's push to boost his military capabilities as tensions with the United States and South Korea rise.

A satellite launch by North Korea is a violation of UN Security Council resolutions that ban the country from conducting any launch based on ballistic technology.

The launch also caused a false alarm in Seoul, the capital of neighbouring South Korea. Residents of the Japanese city of Okinawa were also given a warning.

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The satellite crashed into the sea after launch
The satellite crashed into the sea after launch. Picture: Getty

Seoul residents were woken by an air raid siren and an emergency message telling them to get ready for an evacuation.

But they were told that it was an error just 20 minutes later.

Seoul mayor Oh Se-hoon admitted the emergency text "may have been an overreaction". But "there can be no compromise on safety," he added.

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The satellite launch suggests Mr Kim remains determined to expand his weapons arsenal to apply more pressure on Washington and Seoul while diplomacy is stalled.

Observers say North Korea's previous satellite launches helped improve its long-range missile technology, though the latest launch likely was more focused on deploying a spy satellite.

North Korea said it wanted to monitor the US' military activities
North Korea said it wanted to monitor the US' military activities. Picture: Getty

North Korea has already shown it may have the ability to strike all of the US mainland after years of intercontinental ballistic missile tests.

The newly developed Chollima-1 rocket, which was carrying the Malligyong-1 satellite, was launched at 6.37am local time at the North's Sohae Satellite Launching Ground in the northwest.

The rocket crashed off the Korean Peninsula's western coast after it lost thrust following the separation of its first and second stages, the North's official Korean Central News Agency said.

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It said the country's space agency will investigate defects revealed in the launch, take urgent measures to overcome them and conduct the second launch as soon as possible through various part tests.

Wednesday's launch prompted brief evacuation alerts in South Korea and Japan. Seoul's military said it boosted military readiness in coordination with the United States, and Japan said it prepared to respond to any emergency.

South Korea's military said the rocket had "an abnormal flight" before it fell in the waters. Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told reporters that no object was believed to have reached space.

Adam Hodge, a spokesperson at the UN National Security Council, said in a statement that Washington strongly condemns the North Korean launch because it used banned ballistic missile technology, raised tensions and risked destabilising security in the region and beyond.