Seoul salvages part of rocket from North Korea’s failed launch

Pyongyang attempted to send its first military spy satellite into orbit last month, but the rocket crashed into the sea.

South Korean sailors look down from the deck at what is thought to be a part of a space launch vehicle from North Korea. The wreckage is a large white and silver cylinder with writing in Korean down the middle
Sailors prepare to lift the wreckage from the sea [South Korea Defence Ministry via Reuters]

South Korea has recovered part of a rocket used in North Korea’s failed attempt to launch its first military satellite last month.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said on Friday that the part was salvaged the previous evening and that the search was continuing for additional objects from what the North has claimed was a space launch vehicle.

North Korea attempted to launch its first spy satellite into space on the Chollima-1 on May 31, but the rocket ran into difficulties during the flight and plunged into the sea. The flight was the nuclear-armed state’s sixth satellite launch attempt and the first since 2016.

South Korea has been conducting salvage operations around the west coast island of Eocheongdo to find the debris since the crash with the heavy parts thought to have fallen to the sea bed at a depth of about 75 metres.

Photographs released by the South Korean military showed sailors preparing to lift a large cylindrical object, said to be about 15 metres long (49 feet), from the sea.

“The salvaged object will be thoroughly analysed by expert organisations, including the Agency for Defence Development,” the military said in a statement.

The navy deployed a group of specially trained divers, two salvage and rescue ships, as well as a submarine rescue ship and a P-3 maritime patrol aircraft in the salvage operation, the Yonhap news agency reported, citing a JCS official.

The effort encountered a number of challenges, including underwater visibility of just 50 centimetres (20 inches), it added.

North Korea has been rapidly modernising its military arsenal, with leader Kim Jong Un promising to put its first spy satellite into orbit as part of his military development programme.

It carried out a record number of weapons tests in 2022 and has continued its launch programme throughout this year despite a United Nations ban on ballistic missile launches.

On Thursday night, it fired two short-range ballistic missiles in a move condemned by the United States, Japan and South Korea.

The launch coincided with the start of military exercises in South Korea involving several thousand South Korean and US troops.

Pyongyang has characterised such drills as rehearsals for invasion, justifying its weapons programme as necessary for its own defence.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies