North Korea threatens to 'destroy' US spy satellites, South also successfully launches its own

SEOUL: North Korea warned Saturday it would "destroy" US spy satellites if Washington tries "any attack" on its space asset, after Pyongyang launched its first military eye in the sky last week.

A spokesman for the North's defence ministry said it would consider such a move a "declaration of war", according to a statement carried by the state-run Korean Central News Agency.

The statement came after a US official's remark that Washington "could deny an adversary's space and counterspace capabilities... using a variety of reversible and irreversible means", referring to the North's successful spy satellite launch in late November.

The US military could undermine the "effectiveness and lethality of adversary forces across all domains", Sheryll Klinkel, a spokesperson at the US Space Command, told Radio Free Asia this week.

Since last week's launch, the North has claimed its satellite has already provided images of major US and South Korean military sites.

It has not yet disclosed any of the satellite imagery it claims to possess.

The North's launch of "Malligyong-1" was Pyongyang's third attempt at putting such a satellite in orbit, after two earlier failures.

Meanwhile, South Korea confirmed on Saturday its first military spy satellite had reached orbit after a successful SpaceX rocket launch and that communication was established with ground control.

Seoul's reconnaissance satellite, carried by one of Elon Musk's SpaceX Falcon 9 rockets, intensifies a space race on the Korean peninsula after the North launched its own first military eye in the sky last week.

South Korea's Defence Ministry said on Saturday its satellite reached orbit soon after the "KOREA"-emblazoned SpaceX rocket lifted off from the Vandenberg US Space Force Base in California at 10.19am local time (1819 GMT) Friday.

"The satellite was launched 0319 Seoul time and was successfully separated from projectile 11 minutes later and put into targeted orbital trajectory," the ministry said in a statement.

"We have confirmed its communications with the ground command."

Reaching orbit means that South Korea now has its first domestically built spy satellite to monitor nuclear-armed North Korea.

Seoul plans to launch four additional spy satellites by the end of 2025 to bolster its reconnaissance capacity over the North.

Set to orbit between 400 and 600 kilometres above Earth, the South's satellite is capable of detecting an object as small as 30 centimetres, according to the Yonhap news agency.

"Considering resolution and its capacity for Earth observation... our satellite technology ranks in the top five globally," a defence ministry official said, as quoted by Yonhap.

"Until now, South Korea has relied heavily on US-run spy satellites" when it comes to monitoring the North, Choi Gi-il, professor of military studies at Sangji University, told AFP.

While the South has "succeeded in the launch of a military communications satellite, it has taken much longer for a reconnaissance satellite due to higher technological hurdles", he said.

Following the North's successful launch of its spy satellite, Choi said, "the South Korean government needs to demonstrate it can also pull this off". --AFP

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