North Korea has said an accident occurred as it planned to send up its first space satellite, causing it to crash into the sea. North Korea announced earlier it planned to launch a satellite by 11 June to monitor US military activities.
It now says it will attempt a second launch as soon as possible. The launch sparked a false alarm in the South Korean capital Seoul while in Japan, a warning was issued to residents of Okinawa.
There was chaos and confusion in Seoul as people awoke to the sound of an air raid siren and an emergency message telling them to prepare for an evacuation – only to be told 20 minutes later it had been sent in error.
The stakes are high on the Korean Peninsula, where tensions have existed between the two countries for 70 years, and this false alarm could seriously damage people’s trust in the alert system.
North Korea poses a threat to South Korea, and if there is an alert in the future one question being asked is whether it will be taken seriously, or brushed off as another mistake.
South Korea’s military said the rocket might have broken up in mid-air or crashed after it vanished from radar early, adding that analysis was being conducted, Yonhap news agency reports.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said North Korea appeared to have fired a ballistic missile and that the government was analysing the details.
He added that there were currently no reports of damage following the launch. Japan said previously it was ready to shoot down anything that threatened its territory.
On Tuesday, Ri Pyong Chol, vice chairman of North Korea’s ruling party’s central military commission, announced the launch plan, saying it was in response to “reckless military acts” by the US and South Korea.
He accused the countries of “openly revealing their reckless ambition for aggression”.
Before Wednesday’s launch, the US state department said any North Korean launch that used ballistic missile technology would violate multiple UN Security Council resolutions.
South Korea’s foreign ministry also condemned the launch plan earlier this week, calling it a “serious violation” of security council resolutions “banning all launches using ballistic missile technology”.
“If North Korea eventually goes ahead with the launch, it will have to bear the price and pain it deserves,” it said.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has identified the development of military satellites as a key component of his country’s defence.
Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul, said the North Korean government “likely sees itself in a space race”, and that whether or not its current satellite mission is a success it “can be expected to issue political propaganda about its space capabilities”. -BBC