North Korea is gearing up for a second endeavor to launch what appears to be a surveillance satellite into orbit, with the designated window set between Thursday and August 31. The Japanese government disclosed this development on Tuesday, marking North Korea’s renewed effort after a failed attempt earlier in May.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida addressed the situation, noting that the North had communicated the launch timeframe to Japan. In response, Tokyo has formally requested Pyongyang to halt its preparations for the launch.
Kishida stressed, “Even if the intention is to launch a satellite, utilizing ballistic missile technology for this purpose is a direct breach of pertinent United Nations Security Council resolutions. This matter is of utmost seriousness, as it concerns the safety of the Japanese population.”
Japan is actively collaborating with the United States, South Korea, and other concerned nations to closely monitor developments related to this launch.
In June, the Defense Ministry of Japan extended indefinitely an order issued in late April to destroy any North Korean ballistic missile, rocket, or debris that poses a threat to Japanese territory.
Concurrently, the Japan Coast Guard issued advisories to vessels operating in a wide expanse of waters, encompassing the Yellow Sea, East China Sea, and the area east of the Philippines’ Luzon Island, urging caution during this period.
North Korea had previously attempted to deploy a military reconnaissance satellite on May 31. In an unusual acknowledgment of failure, North Korea confirmed that the rocket launch—briefly prompting an emergency alert for Okinawa Prefecture in Japan—had malfunctioned, ultimately crashing into the sea shortly after liftoff. While parts of the rocket were recovered by South Korea, they maintained that the technology had no military utility.
Pyongyang had conveyed its intention to undertake a second launch “as soon as possible.”
This plan has garnered widespread condemnation from Japan, South Korea, and the United States, who view it as a violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions prohibiting North Korea from employing ballistic missile technology.
Throughout the past year, North Korea has conducted numerous missile launches and tests, including the recent launch of “strategic cruise missiles” during joint military exercises between the U.S. and South Korea.
Nonetheless, North Korea contends that the U.N. resolutions do not encompass its nominally civilian space program. Conversely, Tokyo, Seoul, and Washington interpret the satellite launches as a veiled strategy to advance its missile capabilities, as the technology employed is similar.
Japanese officials express apprehension that any North Korean rocket launch could potentially traverse Okinawa Prefecture or other regions of Japan, branding it as a “grave provocation.”
To prepare for the possible destruction of North Korean missiles, rockets, or debris, Japan has deployed Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) ground-based missile-defense batteries to islands such as Miyako, Ishigaki, and Yonaguni in Okinawa. Additionally, Maritime Self-Defense Force Aegis destroyers equipped with SM-3 interceptors have been stationed in Japanese waters.
The Maritime Self-Defense Force’s Aegis destroyers, equipped with SM-3 interceptors, are designed to intercept ballistic missiles beyond the Earth’s atmosphere. On the other hand, PAC-3 systems, boasting a range of 30 kilometers, serve as a final line of defense against missiles that evade SM-3 interceptors.
Although past North Korean satellite launches have led the trajectory over the southwestern islands of Okinawa Prefecture, experts deem the likelihood of a shootdown scenario to be minimal. Rather, this directive appears to primarily focus on reassuring a concerned public.
A similar directive was issued by Japan in February 2016 when North Korea last sought to launch a satellite.
This latest news follows a historic meeting that took place at the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland on Friday. During this summit, leaders from Japan, South Korea, and the United States heralded “a new era” in trilateral cooperation.
At the summit, these nations unveiled plans for annual joint military exercises and established a mechanism for “real-time sharing of missile warning data” by the end of the year.
Responding to the summit, North Korea, in a commentary published in state media on Tuesday, asserted that the summit aimed to outline, strategize, and formulate provocative nuclear warfare. This strategy, as per North Korea, would be practiced during the extensive joint military drills known as Ulchi Freedom Guardian, conducted by the U.S. and South Korea.
The official Korean Central News Agency stated, “If the agreements reached at the Camp David Resort are implemented in the war drill… the possibility of a thermonuclear conflict on the Korean peninsula becomes more plausible.”