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North Korea shares launch plan with Japan, a possible second attempt to set up a spy satellite


North Korea told Japan on Tuesday that it intends to launch a satellite in the coming days, potentially a second attempt to put a military spy satellite into orbit three months after its first attempt failed, Japanese officials said.

In late May, a North Korean missile carrying a spy satellite crashed into the sea shortly after launch, setting back Kim Jong Un's efforts to set up a space-based surveillance system to better monitor the US and South Korea. North Korea announced a second attempt after investigating what went wrong with the first launch.

The Japan Coast Guard said North Korean authorities had informed them of a plan to launch a satellite beginning August 24 and late August 30. Coast Guard spokesman Hiromune Kikuchi said the notice did not specify what type of satellite North Korea plans to launch, but he believes it may be a satellite similar to the spy satellite it launched in May.

The North Korean notice mentioned three sea areas that could be affected by the launch — one off the west coast of the Korean peninsula, the other in the East China Sea, and the third east of the Philippine island of Luzon. According to “emergency information” released on the Japan Coast Guard website, Japan issued safety alerts for ships passing through the three areas.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida directed relevant government agencies to analyze the plan as much as possible and coordinate with the United States and South Korea to urge Pyongyang not to go ahead with the launch, according to Japanese newspaper Kyodo News.

The North's reported launch plan comes as North Korea is expected to extend its provocative series of missile tests by an 11-day streak in response to annual US-South Korea military exercises that began Monday. North Korea Views describes the regular US-South Korean military exercises as a dress rehearsal for an invasion.

The “Ulchi Freedom Shield” exercises are computer-simulated command post exercises. During this year's training period, the US and South Korean military are also planning more than 30 field exercises.

On Friday, leaders of the US, South Korea and Japan met at their first standalone trilateral summit at Camp David and agreed on a series of steps to step up their defense cooperation to confront North Korea's mounting nuclear and military threats.

North Korea's state media warned on Tuesday that its rivals' drills are raising the risk of nuclear war on the Korean peninsula.

“If, in addition, the agreements reached at Camp David Resort are put into practice in the war exercise involving human and material resources of the United States and other enemy forces, and even vassal forces, there is a possibility of a thermonuclear war breaking out on the Korean side Peninsula.” Korea's official North Central News Agency said.

It said the current situation was forcing North Korea to take “offensive, overwhelming” action, but didn't elaborate.

On Monday, KCNA said leader Kim Jong Un has been monitoring the test launches of strategic cruise missiles and stressed the need to step up efforts to modernize naval weapon systems.

Since the beginning of 2022, North Korea has conducted more than 100 weapons tests, including nuclear-capable missiles intended to attack the US mainland, South Korea and Japan. North Korea says it has no choice but to step up weapons testing in response to expanding military training between the US and South Korea. Washington and Seoul say their drills are defensive in nature.

South Korea's spy service said last week that North Korea was taking the necessary steps to test-fly ICBMs and short-range nuclear-capable missiles and launch a spy satellite.

A spy satellite is among a suite of high-tech weapons systems that North Korea's leader has publicly vowed to acquire to deal with what he calls mounting US-led hostility.

A North Korean satellite launch aboard a missile would violate UN Security Council resolutions banning the country from all ballistic activities. The United States, South Korea and others condemned the North's first spy satellite launch for increasing tensions.

The failed launch in May also raised security concerns in the region. South Korea and Japan briefly warned people in some areas to take shelter, although there were no reports of damage.

In July, the South Korean military completed its survey of the recovered wreckage of North Korea's satellite missile, saying the satellite was not advanced enough to conduct military reconnaissance from space, as North Korea claimed.

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