South Korean announced Wednesday that it was partially suspending its inter-Korean military agreement in the wake of the North's launch of spy satellite. North Korea said it successfully placed its Malligyong-1 satellite in orbit late Tuesday night. Photo by KCNA/UPI
SEOUL, Nov. 22 (UPI) -- South Korea suspended part of a 2018 agreement that restricted military surveillance near the inter-Korean border, Seoul officials said Wednesday, claiming the North violated the pact by launching a spy satellite.
The suspension was approved at a special Cabinet meeting helmed by South Korean Prime Minister Han Duck-soo on Wednesday morning. The South's military will restore aerial surveillance and reconnaissance activities in the area of the Military Demarcation Line, or MDL, that separates the two Koreas.
The move came in response to North Korea's claim that it had successfully placed a military spy satellite into orbit late Tuesday night.
The launch "clearly shows that [North Korea] has no will to abide by the 'September 19 Military Agreement' to ease military tensions and build confidence on the Korean Peninsula," Han said at the meeting.
The Comprehensive Military Agreement was signed on Sept. 19, 2018, during a period of detente with the North under the previous administration of President Moon Jae-in. It aimed at lowering tensions between the two Koreas by establishing a no-fly zone and prohibiting military drills near the border, among other provisions.
"We have come to the conclusion that enduring restrictions on our military's intelligence and surveillance activities in border areas could lead to a situation in which our preparedness will be greatly reduced and we will not be able to protect the lives and safety of our citizens," Han said.
The North said it successfully launched its home-grown Malligyong-1 reconnaissance satellite on a Chollima-1 rocket from a site on the country's west coast at 10:42 p.m. Tuesday. It was the third attempt by the isolated regime to place a military spy satellite into orbit this year, after failures in May and August.
Pyongyang defended the launch as "the legitimate right of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea to strengthen its right to self-defense," state-run Korean Central News Agency reported, using the official name for North Korea.
The satellite "will make a great contribution to firmly enhancing the war readiness of the armed forces of the DPRK in line with the security environment created in the country and surrounding areas due to the enemy's dangerous military moves," the report added.
The White House condemned the launch, calling it a "brazen violation" of multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions that risks destabilizing regional security.
"This space launch involved technologies that are directly related to the DPRK intercontinental ballistic missile program," U.S. National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said in a statement.
Pentagon spokeswoman Sabrina Singh said Tuesday that intelligence officials were "still assessing the success of the launch."
North Korea had notified Japan of its plan to launch a satellite during a nine-day window starting Wednesday but fired the projectile ahead of the announced schedule.
Japan lodged a protest via its embassy in Beijing Wednesday, top government spokesman Hirokazu Matsuno said at a press briefing.
Matsuno said that one part of the projectile fell into the East China Sea around 215 miles off the Korean Peninsula, while another piece splashed into the Pacific Ocean some 745 miles southwest of Japan's southernmost island.
"At this time, it has not been confirmed that a satellite was placed into Earth orbit," he added.
North Korea's preparations for the satellite launch had drawn increased scrutiny in recent weeks amid its growing military ties with Russia.
Washington and Seoul claim that Pyongyang is shipping artillery and equipment to Russia for its war in Ukraine, while the North is believed to be receiving advanced technology for its space and missile programs in return.
South Korean defense officials say that North Korea has violated the inter-Korean agreement dozens of times, and members of the conservative Yoon Suk Yeol administration have been calling for its suspension.
Defense Minister Shin Won-sik said last month that the agreement restricts Seoul's surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities and warned that the South might not be able to respond to a surprise attack similar to the one carried out by Palestinian militant group Hamas on Israel in October.