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ConflictsNorth Korea

North Korean spy satellite launch ends in failure

May 27, 2024

North Korea said it launched a rocket that was carrying a spy satellite but exploded mid-air. However, the US claimed the rocket involved technologies related to Pyongyang's intercontinental ballistic missile program.

A still that appears to show the exploding rocket
Footage appeared to show an exploding object in the night skyImage: The Yomiuri Shimbun/AP/picture alliance

North Korea said a rocket that it launched to carry a spy satellitecalled "Malligyong-1-1" into space exploded mid-air on Monday, minutes after take off.

"The launch of the new satellite carrier rocket failed when it exploded in mid-air during the flight of the first stage," the deputy director general of Pyongyang's National Aerospace Technology Administration said in a report carried by state media.

An "expert review concluded that the cause of the accident was the operational reliability of the newly developed liquid oxygen and oil engine," the report added. 

The launch followed just a few hours after North Korea issued a warning saying it would try to launch a satellite by June 4. The country successfully launched its first spy satellite last November, following two other fiery crashes in 2023.

Footage broadcast by Japanese network NHK showed what appeared to be a flaming projectile in the night sky.

Neighbors condemn rocket launch

The North Korean rocket launch was slammed by neighboring countries.

South Korea's Unification Ministry called it "a provocation that seriously threatens our and regional security."

Defense Minister Minoru Kihara also said the launch posed "a serious challenge to the entire world."

Meanwhile, the United States claimed that the rocket launch was "a brazen violation" of UN Security Council resolutions.

"This launch involved technologies that are directly related to (North Korea's) intercontinental ballistic missile program," the US Indo-Pacific Command said in a statement.

Monday's launch came hours after leaders from China, Japan and South Korea met in Seoul for a rare trilateral meeting to discuss a potential free trade deal. It's unusual for North Korea to take provocative action while China is engaging in high-level diplomacy in the region.

zc/msh (AFP, AP, Reuters)