North Korea state media on Tuesday reported that Pyongyang was set to launch its first military reconnaissance satellite in June.
The report came a day after North Korea notified Japan’s coast guard that it planned to launch a satellite without specifying its purpose.
Japan said the launch window it received from North Korean waterway authorities was between May 31 and June 11. The launch could potentially affect the waters in the Yellow Sea, the East China Sea and east of the Philippines’ Luzon Island.
Pyongyang said Tuesday the satellite was necessary for monitoring the United States’ “reckless” military exercises with South Korea.
In December the Pentagon formally launched a U.S. space force unit at Osan Air Base near Seoul, South Korea that’s expected to allow the U.S. military to better monitor rival nations North Korea, China and Russia.
On Tuesday South Korea accused Ri Pyong Chol, vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party, of making a “farfetched excuse” to bolster its weapons programs.
“It is a nonsense to use our legitimate joint training and combined defense posture with the U.S., which were to respond to North Korea’s advanced nuclear and missile threats, as an excuse for launching a reconnaissance satellite,” said South Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman Lim Soo-suk.
Last week, Seoul launched its first commercial-grade satellite, which according to experts could potentially provide South Korea with the technology needed to launch its first military satellite before the end of the year.
Japan, which has also raised its military posture against threats from North Korea as well as China’s rising influence, has said it would shoot down any projectile that threatens its territory.
“Even if North Korea might call it a ‘satellite,’ this is a violation of relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions that prohibit North Korea from all launches using the ballistic missile technology,” Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said Tuesday.
Earlier satellites reportedly never transmitted imagery back to North Korea, and experts have asserted that the new device displayed recently in state media appeared to be too small and too crudely designed to process and transfer high-resolution imagery.