Japan asks North Korea to abandon ‘satellite’ launch

(Bloomberg) – Japan has called on North Korea to refrain from a planned rocket launch which it called a “serious provocation” following reports that Pyongyang intends to put a satellite into orbit this Wednesday.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said he instructed his cabinet on Monday to collect and analyze information on North Korea’s planned move after reports that Pyongyang would launch a ballistic missile described as a satellite.

The prime minister said Japan would cooperate with relevant countries to ask North Korea not to proceed with the launch, a message reiterated by the chief government spokesman.

“For North Korea to go ahead with a ballistic missile launch it calls a ‘satellite’ is a serious provocation against our country’s national security,” the chief cabinet secretary told reporters. Hirokazu Matsuno. “Any launch using ballistic missile technology violates UN Security Council resolutions.”

The Japanese Coast Guard separately warned that a satellite rocket could be launched between May 31 and June 11. The Japanese Minister of Defense gave the order to destroy any part of the projectile that might fall on Japanese territory.

North Korea last launched a space rocket in February 2016, when the country claimed to have launched an Earth observation satellite into orbit as part of what it said was a legal space program. It is believed that the satellite never reached orbit.

Earlier this month, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visited an assembly facility for North Korea’s first spy satellite, indicating that the state could soon carry out its first space rocket launch in about seven years.

Kim was accompanied by his pre-teen daughter on the field orientation visit to inspect the “No. 1 military reconnaissance satellite which is ready to be loaded”, the official Korean Central News Agency reported. The device is designed to monitor US forces and their allies in Asia.

North Korea is banned by United Nations Security Council resolutions from testing ballistic missiles, but Pyongyang has long asserted that it has the right to a civilian space program for satellite launches. The United States and its partners have warned that technology derived from North Korea’s space program could be used to advance its ballistic missiles.

South Korea has also boosted its efforts for local space technology, successfully launching its first rocket and satellite made from parts sourced from the country. The Southern Nuri rocket lifted off from the country’s Naro Space Center on Thursday and its eight satellites separated into orbit.

–With help from Jon Herskovitz, Isabel Reynolds and Gareth Allan.

(Updates with Chief Cabinet Secretary’s comments in fourth paragraph.)

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