South Korea and Japan had brief evacuations Wednesday after North Korea launched a rocket, saying it was an attempt to put its first military spy satellite into orbit.
The launch came at 6:30 a.m. local time, originating from North Korea’s northwestern Tongchang-ri region, home to the country’s main space launch center, NPR reported.
North Korean state media later announced the launch was unsuccessful, claiming the rocket holding the satellite had crashed into waters off the Korean Peninsula’s western coast.
The problem was reportedly a loss of thrust in between the first and second stages of flight, which scientists continue to investigate.
Shortly after the launch, residents in the South Korean capital of Seoul received cellphone alerts telling them to prepare for an evacuation.
In Japan, the government initiated a missile warning system for its Okinawa prefecture, which was thought to be in the path of the rocket, despite North Korea stating it only held a satellite.
Alerts in both countries were eventually lifted, without report of damage.
The launch from North Korea marked a violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions that restrict the use of such technology for the country because it can be used as a disguise for missile tests.
North Korean officials previously announced plans for a satellite launch in June, citing reconnaissance and protective purposes.
Dictator Kim Jong-un has repeatedly expressed the need to reinforce his country’s defense systems in response to what he feels are escalating threats from the United States and its allies.
U.S. and South Korean officials maintain the joint military drills they have been practicing are defensive in nature, coming in response to growing nuclear threats from North Korea.
With News Wire Services
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