North Korean launch briefly puts Japan and South Korea on alert

A brief moment of tension and concern swept through parts of the Asia-Pacific zone

North Korean launch briefly puts Japan and South Korea on alert

A brief moment of tension and concern swept through parts of the Asia-Pacific zone. North Korea launched a rocket on Wednesday morning, May 31, triggering alerts in Seoul and in the Japanese archipelago of Okinawa, in the south of the country.

According to the South Korean General Staff, Pyongyang fired "what it calls a space launch vehicle" south. "The [North Korean] projectile disappeared from radar before reaching its expected landing point," the South Korean military said, quoted by Yonhap, a little later, referring to the possibility that the device had "exploded in flight or crashed".

But before that, the North Korean launch had caused some confusion. "Missile launch. Missile launch. North Korea appears to have launched a missile. Please take shelter indoors or underground,” Japan’s Prime Minister’s Office tweeted to residents of Okinawa, and broadcast by national broadcaster NHK.

The government canceled its alert thirty minutes later, considering all danger averted. “It is expected that the missile mentioned earlier will not arrive in Japan. The call to evacuate is lifted,” he tweeted.

“North Korea launched what appears to be a ballistic missile (…) No damage has been reported at this time. We are analyzing other information,” Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters upon arriving at his office in Tokyo.

spy satellite

South Korea also canceled an alert issued by the city of Seoul, which sounded sirens and sent a critical emergency message to all mobile phones asking residents to prepare to evacuate by passing "children and the elderly first."

"We inform you that the alert issued by the Seoul metropolitan authorities at 6:41 a.m. was incorrectly issued," the South Korean interior ministry said. According to the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff quoted by Yonhap, the projectile flew over the Yellow Sea without affecting the Seoul metropolitan area.

North Korea announced on Tuesday that it would launch a spy satellite to "address the dangerous military actions of the United States and its vassals", with Japan saying it would be a spy satellite. disguised ballistic missile launch. The Japanese Ministry of Defense had ordered the downing of any missile whose fall on its land or sea territory was confirmed, and had deployed interceptor missiles for this purpose.

Pyongyang had said the launch would take place between May 31 and June 11. Criticizing recent maneuvers between Washington and Seoul, a senior North Korean official said on Tuesday that his country felt "the need to develop its reconnaissance and information capabilities as well as improve various defensive and offensive weapons."

Concealed trial

Tokyo and Seoul had strongly criticized the announcement of the launch, saying it would violate United Nations (UN) sanctions against North Korea, including banning it from using ballistic missiles.

"If North Korea does proceed with this launch, it will have to pay the price and bear the pain it deserves," South Korea's foreign ministry said.

Analysts say sending a satellite into orbit may allow Pyongyang to conduct a covert intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) test, as long-range missiles and space launchers rely on the same technology.

In 2012 and 2016, North Korea, for example, tested ballistic missiles, qualifying them as satellite launches. The two projectiles then flew over the Okinawa region.

Since an escalation of tensions in 2019 with its neighbor, North Korea has accelerated its military development, including conducting banned tests, and has declared itself an "irreversible" military power through its leader, Kim Jong-un. He also called for an "exponential" increase in North Korea's military arsenal, including tactical nuclear weapons.