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File image of North Korea leader Kim Jong Un. Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP

North Korea preparing long-range missile tests and spy satellite launch, says South Korea

The South’s spy agency says the tests are partly in response to major US-South Korean military drills.

NORTH KOREA IS preparing its second attempt to put a spy satellite into orbit as well as tests of long-range missiles to mark a key national anniversary and protest efforts by the United States to strengthen its regional alliances, South Korea’s intelligence service said.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has been expected to conduct weapons tests in response to major US-South Korean military drills that begin next week and a trilateral US-South Korea-Japan summit at Camp David in the United States tomorrow.

The National Intelligence Service (NIS) told officials in a closed-door meeting that North Korea may try to launch a spy satellite in late August or early September ahead of the country’s 75th anniversary on 9 September, according to Yoo Sang-bum, who attended the briefing.

The NIS said North Korea has been testing an engine for the rocket to be used for the satellite launch and has installed an additional land antenna to receive satellite data, Yoo said.

Kim Jong Un has vowed to produce a number of high-tech weapons systems including a military reconnaissance satellite.

North Korea attempted a satellite launch in late May, but the rocket crashed into the ocean soon after lift-off.

featureimage An object salvaged by South Korea’s military, presumed to be part of the North Korean space-launch vehicle that crashed into sea following a launch failure.

North Korean state media said it lost thrust following the separation of its first and second stages.

South Korea’s military has said that debris from the satellite indicated that it was not advanced enough to conduct military reconnaissance as claimed.

The NIS said it also has detected unusually heavy activities at a North Korean facility that produces solid-fuelled intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) and at another site related to liquid-fuelled ICBMs, Yoo said.

The NIS said the launch preparations are intended to protest the Camp David summit or the US-South Korean military drills that begin next Monday, Yoo added.

North Korea is extremely sensitive to US efforts to bolster its alliances with South Korea and Japan.

Since the start of 2022, it has conducted more than 100 missile tests, saying it needs to strengthen its own military capabilities in response to expanding US-South Korean exercises, which have included a US aircraft carrier, nuclear-capable bombers and nuclear-armed submarines.

North Korea has demonstrated that its ICBMs have the potential range to reach the US mainland, but many analysts believe it still needs to master some remaining technological challenges.

Its shorter-range missiles are capable of targeting South Korea and Japan.

Three of North Korea’s four known types of ICBMs use liquid fuels and the fourth employs solid fuel.

Solid-fuelled missiles are easier to move and fire quickly, making them more difficult to detect before launch.

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