SEOUL, South Korea – North Korea has tried and failed for the second time to launch a spy satellite, state media said, and vowed to make a third attempt in October.
The official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported that the Maligyong-1 spy satellite was launched Thursday local time on the newly developed Cholima-1 rocket, which had normal first- and second-stage flights. It added that the launch failed “due to a fault in the emergency detonation system during the third stage flight.”
North Korea’s space agency said there will be a third launch attempt in October after it assessed the cause of the launch failure on Thursday. “The cause of the accident is not a big problem in terms of the reliability of the series engines and the system,” the agency said, according to a KCNA report.
The launch was also reported by the governments of South Korea and Japan. South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the missile was launched around 3:50 a.m. (2:50 p.m. ET Wednesday) from North Korea’s Tongchang-ri, the site of the main Space Launch Center.
The United States strongly condemned the missile launch, describing it as a violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions that ban North Korea from using ballistic missile technology, saying it increases tensions and threatens regional stability.
National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said in a statement that the Biden administration is assessing the situation and will take all necessary measures to protect the security of the United States and its allies South Korea and Japan.
North Korea, which is seeking to develop a space surveillance system to better monitor US and South Korean military movements, notified the Japanese Coast Guard this week that the launch would take place between August 24 and 31.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had pledged to attempt a second launch after the first attempt ended on May 31 with the missile carrying the spy satellite tumbling into the sea shortly after launch.
In an unusually blunt admission of failure, North Korea said at the time that the missile had lost thrust between the first and second stages of launch. Senior North Korean officials later called the failed launch the “most serious” flaw this year in the country’s efforts to develop its weapons programs, according to the KCNA news agency.
The South Korean military, which recovered debris from both the satellite and the missile used to launch it, said last month that it had “no military utility”.
Thursday’s launch comes as the United States and South Korea hold annual military exercises that North Korea considers rehearsals for invasion, which the two allies deny.
North Korea on Tuesday denounced the drills and said the tripartite agreements reached at the first-of-its-kind Camp David summit last week between the United States, South Korea and Japan raise the risk of a nuclear war on the Korean peninsula.
The day before, KCNA reported that Kim watched the test launch of strategic cruise missiles, in a widely expected resumption of weapons tests in response to the 11-day US-South Korean exercises.