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Kim Jong Un pledges to put satellites in sky after rocket fails

People watch a television screen showing a news broadcast with file footage of a North Korean missile test, at a railway station in Seoul, South Korea, on May 17, 2024. North Korea has fired at least one "unidentified ballistic missile," Seoul's military said on May 17, hours after leader Kim Jong Un's powerful sister denied widespread allegations that Pyongyang is shipping weapons to Russia. (Jung Yeon-je/AFP via Getty Images/TNS)

Leader Kim Jong Un said deploying spy satellites is an essential choice to protect North Korea’s sovereignty after one of its rockets failed in flight, and threatened South Korea over its show of force linked to the launch.

In a speech to the country’s Academy of Defense Sciences, Kim said the rocket launched Monday that was meant to deploy a spy satellite failed due to an abnormality in a first-stage engine. He also paid tribute to the engineers and technicians “who have become a solid cornerstone of the fighting capability of our army,” the official Korean Central News Agency quoted him as saying.

“Possession of a military reconnaissance satellite is a prerequisite and essential for our nation to further strengthen its self-defense deterrence and protect national sovereignty,” KCNA on Wednesday quoted Kim as saying.

The North Korean rocket carrying a spy satellite blew up shortly after liftoff in a setback for Kim, who went to Russia last year seeking help placing an array of reconnaissance probes into orbit.

Kim intends to launch three spy satellites in 2024, KCNA reported after a policy-setting meeting of top officials in the last days of December. The satellites can help him keep an eye on U.S. troops in the region and improve his ability to strike targets as he upgrades his nuclear weapons arsenal.

In the hours between North Korea giving notice of its intention to launch and actually firing off the rocket Monday, South Korea put on a show of force by sending about 20 warplanes into skies near the border with its neighbor.

Kim said South Korea was playing with fire and the move cannot be ignored. He also reiterated that his state will do all it can to boost its war deterrence against U.S. imperialists and “their stooges” in Seoul.

This was North Korea’s fourth attempt to launch a spy satellite since last year, with three ending in failure soon after lift-off and a launch in November successfully placing a probe into orbit. It remains to be seen if there was any influence from Russia on the design of the new engine, which was rolled out for use after President Vladimir Putin pledged at a September summit with Kim to help him with his space program.

The U.S. and its partners have also accused Kim of sending massive amounts of munitions to Putin to help in his war on Ukraine in return for aid that is advancing North Korea’s military and economy. Moscow and Pyongyang have denied the claims.


© 2024 Bloomberg L.P

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