North Korea tested a spy satellite over the weekend, state-run media reported Monday, in a launch that South Korean defense officials said was a ballistic missile test. Photo by Yonhap
SEOUL, Dec. 18 (UPI) -- North Korea conducted an "important final-stage test" for a reconnaissance satellite that it aims to complete by April, state media reported on Monday.
The test was held on Sunday at the Sohae Satellite Launching Ground, Korean Central News Agency reported.
The announcement comes a day after South Korea's military said it detected two medium-range ballistic missiles fired from the Tongchang-ri area, where the Songhae launch site is located.
Earlier this year, North Korea used satellite launches as cover for tests related to its banned intercontinental ballistic missile program. On Monday, a South Korean defense ministry spokesman told reporters that assessments of the missile launches "remain unchanged" in the wake of the North's claims.
In a report carried by the KCNA, an unnamed spokesperson for North Korea's aerospace agency said the test launch was "mainly aimed to evaluate the capabilities of satellite photography and data transmission system and ground control system."
The spokesman said that the vehicle carrying the test satellite, which included cameras, transmitters and receivers, was fired at a high angle and reached an altitude of 311 miles.
The KCNA report included black-and-white aerial photos of Seoul and neighboring city Incheon, presumably taken as part of the satellite's camera test. The aerospace agency called the launch an "important success" and announced it would finish preparations for its first military reconnaissance satellite by April.
Last week, the North claimed it successfully tested a solid-fuel engine for a "new-type strategic weapon system" at the Sohae launching ground.
Experts believe that the North Korean regime is looking to perfect a solid-fuel ICBM, which was one of five key defense industry goals set out at a party congress last year.
Pyongyang has launched more than 60 ballistic missiles this year, a record high. Officials in Seoul and Washington have assessed that North Korea has completed preparations for a nuclear test, which would be its seventh overall and first since 2017.