North Korea claimed Monday that its ballistic missile launch over the weekend was the test of a reconnaissance satellite. Photo by Yonhap/EPA-EFE
SEOUL, Feb. 28 (UPI) -- North Korea said Monday that it successfully conducted a test of a "reconnaissance satellite" over the weekend in a launch of what the South Korean and Japanese militaries described as a ballistic missile.
The test helped "confirm the characteristics and working accuracy of high-definition photographing system, data transmission system and attitude control devices," according to a brief report in state-run Korean Central News Agency. Two images of a "specific area on Earth" were released along with the report, which appeared to be views of the Korean Peninsula taken from space.
South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff reported that it detected the launch Sunday morning of a ballistic missile that flew 185 miles into the sea between Korea and Japan and reached a top altitude of 385 miles. Military analysts said that the projectile resembled the Pukguksong-2 intermediate-range ballistic missile, according to local media reports.
The test Sunday marked Pyongyang's eighth missile launch of the year, and the first since a busy month of January that concluded with the firing of an intermediate-range missile on Jan. 30.
Observers have speculated that North Korea paused its weapons tests out of deference to ally China as it hosted the Beijing 2022 Winter Games in February, but it appears that Pyongyang is ready to resume an aggressive development plan aimed at bolstering and modernizing its defense capabilities.
North Korea has stuck to a self-imposed moratorium on tests of intercontinental ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons since 2017, but leader Kim Jong Un suggested in January that he was considering lifting the ban.
Sunday's launch triggered an emergency meeting of South Korea's National Security Council, which condemned the test and highlighted its inopportune timing.
"Launching a ballistic missile at a time when the world is making efforts to resolve the Ukraine war is never desirable for peace and stability in the world, region and on the Korean Peninsula," the council said in a statement released by the presidential Blue House.
Japan's defense ministry also confirmed the launch details on Sunday and denounced North Korea's recent wave of missile tests as "absolutely unacceptable."
The United States' special representative to North Korea, Sung Kim, held a call with his Japanese and South Korea counterparts on Sunday and condemned the launch, which he said "violated multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions and presented a serious threat to regional stability," according to a readout from the State Department.
The launch came 10 days ahead of the South Korean presidential election, which will be held on March 9.
Leading opposition candidate Yoon Suk-yeol said Monday in a Facebook post that it was a "matter of time" before North Korea broke its moratorium on nuclear tests.
Yoon, of the conservative People Power Party, swiped at the current administration and his main opponent, Lee Jae-myung, for being reluctant to criticize North Korea and said that he would attain "peace through strength" with a strong deterrent.