North Korea declared the successful launch of a spy satellite.

The state-run news agency KCNA reported that the satellite lifted off Tuesday night from North Phyongan province, accurately placing the reconnaissance satellite ‘Malligyong-1’ into its designated orbit. State media images depicted North Korean leader Kim Jong Un smiling and waving, surrounded by jubilant scientists and engineers in white uniforms, celebrating the successful launch.

The United States led condemnation of the launch, deeming it a “brazen violation” of UN sanctions. South Korea responded by partially suspending a 2018 military deal with North Korea, announcing the resumption of surveillance operations along their border. Japan expressed skepticism, stating that the claims of success by Pyongyang could not be immediately independently verified.

The launch marked North Korea’s third attempt to deploy a spy satellite into orbit, with previous efforts in May and August having failed. Seoul, Tokyo, and Washington had consistently warned against such launches, citing violations of UN resolutions. Experts note significant technological overlap between space launch rockets and ballistic missiles, and UN resolutions prohibit Pyongyang from conducting tests involving ballistic technology.

Seoul’s intelligence agency suggested this month that North Korea may have received technical assistance from Russia in exchange for weapons shipments supporting Moscow’s activities in Ukraine. KCNA asserted North Korea’s “legitimate right” to launch the satellite, citing perceived threats from South Korea and the United States. The country plans to launch additional satellites shortly to enhance its surveillance capabilities on South Korea, according to KCNA.

Following the launch, a South Korean defense official announced the restoration of aerial surveillance and reconnaissance activities along the border as “equivalent and minimal defensive measures against North Korea’s provocation.” The official warned of immediate and robust military responses to any further provocations by North Korea.

China, a longtime treaty ally and economic supporter of Pyongyang, refrained from condemning the launch. Instead, the Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson called for calm and restraint among concerned parties, emphasizing the complexity and sensitivity of the situation on the Korean peninsula.

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