North Korea informed neighboring Japan on Monday that it plans to launch a satellite in the coming days, despite the United Nations prohibiting it from engaging in such activity.
Japan’s coast guard said North Korean waterway authorities revealed that the launch window was between May 31 and June 11 and that the launch may affect waters in the Yellow Sea, East China Sea and east of the Philippines’ Luzon Island.
A safety warning was issued by Japan’s coast guard for ships in the area on those dates due to the possible dangers of falling debris. The coast guard coordinates and distributes maritime safety information in East Asia, which is most likely why it received North Korea’s notice.
For North Korea to launch a satellite into space, it would need to use long-range missile technology banned by U.N. Security Council resolutions. The country’s previous launches of Earth observation satellites were viewed as missile tests in disguise.
Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said the launch would be in violation of U.N. resolutions and is a “threat to the peace and safety of Japan, the region and the international community.”
Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada instructed Japan’s Self-Defense Force to shoot down the satellite or debris if any entered Japanese territory.
Matsuno said it was possible the satellite would enter or pass above Japan’s southwestern islands. This would include Okinawa, where the U.S. has major military bases and thousands of troops.
Japan has been on standby for falling missile debris following North Korean launches earlier this year. The country has also deployed missile defense systems and ship-to-air interceptors in its southwestern region.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s office said he ordered officials to gather and analyze information related to the launch in order to notify Japanese people of it.
North Korean state media reported earlier this month that leader Kim Jong Un inspected a finished military spy satellite at his country’s aerospace center and approved its launch plan.
The launch notice given to Japan on Monday did not specify the type of satellite.
South Korea launched its first commercial-grade satellite into space last week, which could give it the technology and expertise to put its first military spy satellite into orbit later this year – and the ability to develop additional powerful missiles. According to experts, Kim would want his country to launch a spy satellite before South Korea.
North Korea put Earth observation satellites in orbit in 2012 and 2016. It does not inform neighboring countries about planned missile firings but has previously given notices before satellite launches.
Spy satellites are among several high-tech weapons systems Kim has publicly committed to developing. The others include solid-propellant ICBMs, nuclear-powered submarines, hypersonic missiles and multi-warhead missiles.
Since the start of last year, North Korea has test-launched more than 100 missiles, some of which were nuclear-capable weapons within striking distance of the U.S. mainland, South Korea and Japan. North Korea argues its tests are intended as a warning over expanded military drills between the U.S. and South Korea.
Last week, the South Korean and U.S. militaries conducted large-scale live-fire drills near the border of the two countries. North Korea warned Monday that the U.S. and South Korea will face unspecified consequences for their “war scenario for aggression.”
“We’d like to ask them if they can cope with the consequences to be entailed by their reckless and dangerous war gambles that are being staged under the eyes of the armed forces of [North Korea],” the North’s official Korean Central News Agency said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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