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North Korea accuses US of double standards over South Korea spy satellite

(South Korea Defence Ministry/AP)
(South Korea Defence Ministry/AP)

North Korea has accused the United States of double standards, castigating it for letting rival South Korea launch a spy satellite from US territory after condemning the North’s earlier satellite launch.

Last Friday, South Korea launched its first domestically-built spy satellite into space from California’s Vandenberg Space Force Base. That came after North Korea put its own military spy satellite into orbit for the first time on November 21.

Unlike the South Korean launch, North Korea’s satellite lift-off drew immediate, strong rebukes from Washington, Seoul and their partners because it violated UN Security Council resolutions.

The world body views any North Korean launch using ballistic technology as a cover for testing its missile technology. North Korea maintains it has the right to launch satellites and test missiles in the face of what it calls US-led military threats.

An unnamed spokesman for the North’s National Aerospace Technology Administration said: “It is a space-level tragicomedy that the US, going frantic with illegal denunciation and sanctions moves over the exercise of (North Korea’s) sovereignty, has shown behaviour based on double standards by launching a spy satellite of (South Korea) in a shameless manner.”

The statement said if “the gangster-like logic of the US … is connived and tolerated, global peace and stability will be exposed to an irrevocable grave danger.”

North Korea has said its spy satellite transmitted imagery with space views of key sites in the US and South Korea, including the White House and the Pentagon. But it has not yet released any of those photos.

Many outside experts question whether it can send militarily useful high-resolution imagery.

North Korea has said it will launch additional spy satellites to better monitor its rivals’ moves and enhance the precision-guided strike capability of its missiles.

South Korea also plans to launch four more spy satellites by 2025 under a contract with SpaceX.

The establishment of its own space-based surveillance network would ease its dependence on US spy satellites to monitor strategic facilities in North Korea.

Experts say launching a satellite aboard a SpaceX rocket is more economical and that South Korea also needs more tests to ensure the reliability of a launch rocket.

South Korea Korea Tensions
The third test flight of a solid-fuel space rocket is launched from a barge near Jeju Island, South Korea (South Korea Defence Ministry/AP)

Earlier on Monday, South Korea carried out a third test flight for a solid-fuel rocket near its southern Jeju Island, according to Seoul’s Defence Ministry. A ministry statement said the launch was successful and put a civilian commercial satellite into orbit.

Solid-fuel rockets require shorter launch times and cheaper development and manufacturing costs than liquid-fuel rockets.

Experts say solid-fuel rockets are used to launch smaller spy satellite because they have weaker thrust force than similar-sized liquid-fuel rockets. They say the development of solid-fuel rockets can help improve South Korea’s missile technology as well.

After the North Korean satellite launch, South Korea said it would resume frontline aerial surveillance in response. South Korea said North Korea reacted by restoring border guard posts.

Both North and South Korean moves would breach their earlier agreement to ease military tensions along their border.

The North Korean satellite lift-off followed two earlier launch failures.

South Korea suspects North Korea received Russian technical assistance for a satellite launch programme as part of expanding co-operation between the two nations, both locked in separate confrontations with the United States.