By Josh Smith
SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea said it conducted “another important” test for reconnaissance satellite systems, state news agency KCNA reported on Sunday, a day after regional military authorities reported the launch of a ballistic missile from the country for the second time in a week.
The launch drew condemnation from governments in the United States, South Korea, and Japan, which fear the North is preparing to conduct a major weapons test in coming months. They see the North’s satellite launches as thinly veiled tests of ballistic missile technology banned by United Nations Security Council resolutions.
North Korea’s National Aerospace Development Administration (NADA) and the Academy of Defence Science conducted the launch “under the plan of developing a reconnaissance satellite,” KCNA reported.
It was the second such launch in a week to test satellite equipment, and the ninth missile launch this year.
“Through the test, the NADA confirmed the reliability of data transmission and reception system of the satellite, its control command system and various ground-based control systems,” KCNA said.
Like the last test on Feb. 27, KCNA did not elaborate on the type of rocket used in the launch, but authorities in South Korea said it appeared to be a ballistic missile fired from an area near Pyongyang where its international airport is located.
South Korea’s military said the North Korean missile reached a height of about 560 km (350 miles) and flew 270 km (170 miles).
Amid stalled denuclearisation talks, North Korea conducted a record number of weapons launches in January, and has suggested it could resume testing nuclear weapons or its longest range intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) for the first time since 2017.
Saturday’s test came just days ahead of a presidential election on Wednesday in South Korea, where officials are bracing for a North Korean attempt to launch its spy satellite into orbit in the near future.
“Any satellite launch would bring serious repercussions, as it’s the same technology used to launch an ICBM,” Lee Jong-seok, the top foreign policy advisor to ruling party candidate Lee Jae-myung, has told Reuters.
South Korea is also pushing ahead with plans for its own space launch vehicles, which are not banned by the UNSC.
It plans to test a solid-fuel space projectile this month as part of a project to deploy its own military surveillance satellites to monitor the North, Yonhap news agency reported.
(Reporting by Josh Smith; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and David Gregorio)