North Korea announced that it would launch a military reconnaissance satellite in June to monitor in real time the military movements of the United States and its partners, state media KCNA reported on Tuesday local time.
Ri Pyong Chol, vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission of the ruling Workers' Party, denounced joint military exercises being held by the United States and South Korea as openly showing their "reckless ambition for aggression,” the KCNA news agency said in a statement.
The soon-to-be launched satellite, along with other North Korean reconnaissance technology, are “indispensable to tracking, monitoring ... and coping with in advance in real time the dangerous military acts of the U.S. and its vassal forces," the statement said.
Last week, the United States and South Korea began three weeks of massive military drills. The exercizes are part of a show of force against North Korea, which has accelerated its own missile launches.
Pyongyang notified the Japanese coast guard Monday that it plans to launch the satellite in the next two weeks. The notification comes just weeks after North Korea’s state-run media said leader Kim Jong Un has approved final preparations for the launch.
Japan responded to the North’s annoucement by saying the launch would be a violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions over the Pyongyang’s previous missile tests.
Japan’s defense ministry has ordered its land and sea-based ballistic missile interceptor units to shoot down any object that appears to threaten its territory. Officials said the launch may affect waters in the Yellow Sea, East China Sea and east of the Philippines' Luzon Island in the Philippine Sea.
Japanese officials say the satellite is expected to fly over the country’s southwestern islands as it did in 2016, when North Korea placed an Earth observation satellite into orbit.
The office of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said he has ordered his government to collect and analyze any information from the launch.
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South Korea’s foreign ministry warned North Korea against the launch in a statement Monday, saying the reclusive regime will pay “due prices” if it follows through with its plans.
On Monday, the chief nuclear envoys of South Korea, the United States and Japan spoke by phone. South Korea's Foreign Ministry said the envoys strongly urged North Korea to refrain from what they termed “an illegal launch” that would threaten regional peace, according to The Associated Press. Japan issued a similar statement.
China, North Korea’s chief ally, renewed its call for a political settlement of tensions in response to the launch announcement, AP reported.
“There is a reason why the situation on the Korean Peninsula has developed to how it is today,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said at a daily briefing Monday. “We hope that all parties concerned will face up to the crux of the issue, strive for a political settlement, and address each other’s legitimate concerns through meaningful dialogue in a balanced manner.”
Some information for this article came from The Associated Press and Reuters.