North Korea’s Kim Yo Jong, the powerful sister of leader Kim Jong Un, has promised more satellite launches after the country’s attempt to send its first military spy satellite into orbit ended in failure.
Condemning the United States for “gangster-like” hypocrisy for its criticism of Wednesday’s failed launch, Kim Yo Kong said it was North Korea’s sovereign right to acquire space-based reconnaissance capabilities.
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“We are ready to act whatever it may be in defending its sovereign right and interests,” she said in a statement carried by state-run KCNA.
Kim’s comments came a day after a North Korean long-range rocket carrying the Malligyong-1, the country’s first spy satellite, lost thrust after a stage separation and crashed into the sea to the west of the Korean peninsula.
After an unusually rapid admission of failure, North Korea said it would conduct a second launch after analysing what went wrong.
The launch was swiftly condemned by South Korea, which retrieved some of the debris from the water, as well as Tokyo and Washington, which noted the launch involved the use of banned ballistic missile technology, raised tensions and risked destabilising security in the region and beyond.
United Nations chief Antonio Guterres also condemned the launch, saying it was in breach of UN resolutions.
On Thursday, KCNA also published images of what it said was the new Chollima-1 rocket lifting off from a coastal launch pad in flames and smoke.
Commercial satellite imagery of one of the launch pads at the Sohae Satellite Launching Station showed more than a dozen vehicles, US-based 38 North, a programme to analyse North Korea, said in a report.
“Which pad was used for the launch cannot yet be confirmed,” the report said. “However, activity at the main launch pad is consistent with post-launch assessment and clean-up efforts.”
Before Wednesday, Pyongyang had launched five satellites since 1998.
Of the five, three failed immediately and two appeared to have been put into orbit – but signals from them have never been independently detected, suggesting they might have malfunctioned.
The most recent satellite launch was in 2016. The following year, Pyongyang successfully test-fired its first intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
North Korea carried out more than 100 weapons tests since January 2022 as it moves to modernise its military weaponry and equipment.
Kim Jong Un’s wish list of weapons also includes a multi-warhead missile, a nuclear submarine, a solid-propellant intercontinental ballistic missile and a hypersonic missile.
He argues that improving the country’s military capabilities is necessary for self-defence.