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North Korea says it will launch 'several' spy satellites this year

North Korea said Monday it planned to place "several" spy satellites into orbit this year, following its first successful launch in November, which leader Kim Jong Un oversaw. File Photo by KCNA/EPA-EFE
North Korea said Monday it planned to place "several" spy satellites into orbit this year, following its first successful launch in November, which leader Kim Jong Un oversaw. File Photo by KCNA/EPA-EFE

SEOUL, April 1 (UPI) -- North Korea said Monday it was on its way to becoming a "space power" and vowed to put several more reconnaissance satellites into orbit this year, following its first successful launch in November.

"Great progress has been made in strengthening the national defense capability with the successful launch of the reconnaissance satellite 'Malligyong-1' last year," Pak Kyong Su, vice director of the North's National Aerospace Technology Administration said, according to state-run Korean Central News Agency. "Several reconnaissance satellites are expected to be launched this year as well."

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Pak made the comments on the anniversary of the founding of the North's space development agency on April 1.

North Korea has also been working on satellite projects for sectors including agriculture, weather observation, communications, land management and disaster prevention, Pak added.

"The development of the space industry is a key factor in opening up a shortcut to securing the status of a world-class economic, scientific and technological power," he said. "We will surely build a space power by continuing to spur independent space development."

North Korea successfully placed its Malligyong-1 spy satellite into orbit last November after a pair of failed attempts earlier in the year.

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That launch drew scrutiny amid Pyongyang's growing military ties with Moscow following a September visit by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to Russia. The trip included a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at a space launch facility.

Seoul and Washington say that Pyongyang has been shipping artillery and equipment to Russia for its war in Ukraine, while the North is believed to be receiving advanced technology for its space and missile programs in return.

South Korea's Unification Ministry, which manages inter-Korean affairs, said Monday that Seoul is monitoring launch sites and key facilities in close coordination with the United States.

"We will not make any predictions about the possibility of launching a military satellite in the future, but will prepare for all possibilities through close cooperation with relevant organizations," ministry spokesperson Koo Byung-sam said at a press briefing.

"Regardless of the purpose of the satellites that North Korea claims, any North Korean satellite using ballistic missile technology is a clear violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions," he added.

South Korea's military said Monday that it detected no signs of preparations for an impending launch.

"Currently, there are no imminent signs of a reconnaissance satellite launch from the Tongchang-ri launch site," Joint Chiefs of Staff spokesman Col. Lee Sung-joon said at a press briefing. "South Korean and U.S. intelligence authorities have been closely coordinating to monitor and track North Korea's military activities."

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