North Korea announced Wednesday that it had tried to launch a "military reconnaissance satellite" but it "damaged at sea", after triggering a missile alert in Japan and an erroneous evacuation order in Seoul.
"The new Chollima-1 satellite-carrying rocket crashed into the West Sea", the Korean name for the Yellow Sea, state news agency KCNA said, explaining the failure by "a loss of thrust due to abnormal starting of the second stage engine, after separation from the first stage during normal flight".
The projectile "quickly disappeared from radar before reaching its expected point of fall", according to the South Korean army quoted by the Yonhap agency.
The South Korean military has released images of the debris of the satellite and its launcher which it says it recovered from the Yellow Sea, 200 km from Eocheong Island, far off the peninsula's western coast. . These images show a large cylinder-shaped metal structure with some pipes and wires at its end.
"From the recovered debris, experts will be able to have a much better understanding of North Korea's level of expertise in large multi-stage launchers," Ankit told AFP. Panda, a Korea specialist based in the United States.
The shooting, which occurred early Wednesday, caused confusion in Japan and Seoul. The sirens sounded, accompanied by a "critical emergency" alert sent by the town hall of the South Korean capital at 06:41 (21:41 GMT) accompanied by a thunderous ringtone on all mobile phones in the city.
The alert, which urged residents to prepare for an evacuation by putting "children and the elderly first", was later canceled, with the Home Office citing an error.
According to the South Korean military cited by Yonhap, the rocket never threatened the Seoul metropolitan area.
"Now, when a real alarm goes off, no one will believe it. It's like in the fable of the Boy who cried wolf," said a father of two in Seoul.
A missile alert had also been issued in the Japanese department of Okinawa (south), calling on the population to take shelter. It was also lifted by the government, 30 minutes later.
The United States condemned the launch, which uses "ballistic missile technology" and "risks destabilizing the security situation in the region and beyond," said Adam Hodge, spokesman for the American National Security Council.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also condemned the launch, which was carried out "in flagrant violation of UN resolutions".
Pyongyang announced on Tuesday that it would put a spy satellite into orbit in order "to deal with the dangerous military actions of the United States and its vassals".
Although it does not communicate in advance about its missile tests, the regime generally informs about its space programs presented as peaceful, and had warned that this launch would take place between May 31 and June 11.
Tokyo on Wednesday "strongly" condemned the shooting and denounced a violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions.
"Kim's (Jong Un) determination does not stop there," Soo Kim, a former CIA analyst, told AFP, adding that this latest operation may herald "larger provocations, including the nuclear test which we have been speculating about for a long time".
In 2012 and 2016, North Korea conducted ballistic missile tests calling them satellite launches. Both projectiles had flown over the Okinawa region.
As soon as Pyongyang announced, the satellite launch project was immediately condemned by Tokyo and Seoul, who also invoked United Nations sanctions. These sanctions prohibit North Korea from launching ballistic missiles, which rely on the same technology as space launchers.
According to specialists, North Korea has no satellites in operation, although it has sent five into space. Three launches failed. As for the other two devices, which have probably been put into orbit, no independent organization has ever picked up their signals, suggesting a malfunction.
Criticizing recent military maneuvers between Washington and Seoul, a senior North Korean official said on Tuesday that his country felt "the need to develop its means of reconnaissance and information as well as to improve various defensive and offensive weapons".
For Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul, mission success matters less than Pyongyang's ability to build propaganda discourse and new diplomatic rhetoric around its space capabilities.
Since escalating tensions in 2019 with its neighbor, North Korea has accelerated its military development and declared itself an "irreversible" nuclear power through its leader, Kim Jong Un.
The latter called for an "exponential" increase in North Korea's arsenal, including tactical nuclear weapons.
31/05/2023 16:36:39 - Seoul (AFP) - © 2023 AFP