SEOUL: North Korea's launch of what was claimed to be a rocket carrying a spy satellite ended in failure Wednesday, drawing a swift rebuke from the United States and its regional allies for the use of ballistic missile technology, reports Kyodo News.
The 6:27 am firing came on the initial day of a launch window announced by North Korea for its first military reconnaissance satellite, with the nation pledging to make another attempt as soon as possible, according to the state-run Korean Central News Agency.
The South Korean military said the projectile was a long-range ballistic missile that fell about 200 kilometers from the country's Eocheong Island in the Yellow Sea and it was retrieving an object that seemed to be part of what the North called a space launch vehicle.
KCNA said serious defects appeared, and the rocket carrying the spy satellite experienced an abnormal firing of its second-stage engine and lost propulsion, adding the failure was attributed to the low reliability and stability of the new-type engine system.
Senior officials of Japan, the United States and South Korea held phone talks and strongly condemned the latest launch involving the use of ballistic missile technology in violation of UN Security Council resolutions, according to the Japanese government.
The resolutions banning North Korea from utilising ballistic technology have led to the imposition of sanctions on the country.
Takehiro Funakoshi, the Foreign Ministry's Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau chief, and his South Korean and US counterparts, Kim Gunn and Sung Kim, agreed to continue monitoring the North's moves, the Japanese government said.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning told reporters in Beijing that current conditions on the peninsula are something that China did not want to see, adding that meaningful dialogue is the only way to prevent further deterioration of the situation.
The firing of the projectile came after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un instructed his country's space agency to make final preparations for the launch of Pyongyang's first military reconnaissance satellite.
Shortly after the launch, the Japanese government issued a J-Alert warning urging residents in the southern island prefecture of Okinawa to take shelter, but it was lifted around 35 minutes later after it was confirmed that the projectile was unlikely to fall on the nation's territory.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters in Tokyo that the government was collecting and analysing information about the launch and there were no reports of damage from the projectile.
Tokyo lodged a protest with Pyongyang over the launch, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno, the top government spokesman, said at a press conference, adding whether the projectile was a rocket with a satellite was still under analysis.
Pyongyang has notified the Japan Coast Guard of three maritime danger zones in which an object could land during the launch period between Wednesday and June 11.
Two of the areas are located to the west of the Korean Peninsula and the third to the east of the Philippines, with all three outside of Japan's exclusive economic zone.
Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada told reporters that the Self-Defense Forces will maintain their vigilance and readiness to intercept as the designated launch window has not yet concluded.
On Monday, Hamada ordered the SDF to destroy any projectile fired by North Korea if it was expected to cross into Japanese territory.
But ground-based Patriot Advanced Capability-3 interceptor missiles were not deployed at a planned site on Okinawa Prefecture's Ishigaki Island in the East China Sea due to the approach of a typhoon, a source familiar with the matter said.
The SDF have deployed PAC-3 systems on the remote islands of Miyako and Yonaguni in the southern prefecture.
On Monday, Ri Pyong Chol, vice chairman of the Central Military Commission of the Workers' Party of Korea, said the North's military reconnaissance satellite was indispensable to tracking, monitoring, discriminating, controlling and coping with in advance in real time the dangerous military acts of the US and its vassal forces.
Noting the reckless military acts of the United States and South Korea, We steadily feel the need to expand reconnaissance and information means and improve various defensive and offensive weapons, Ri said.
Pyongyang, which launched missiles a record 37 times last year, has continued firing ballistic missiles this year, with fears mounting that the country may be preparing to conduct its seventh nuclear test in the near future.
Wednesday's launch by North Korea came as Kishida has expressed eagerness to establish senior-level negotiations to realise talks with Kim at the earliest opportunity to seek the return of Japanese nationals abducted by Pyongyang in the 1970s and 1980s.
Matsuno said later in the day that negotiations between Japan and North Korea should progress toward resolving the abduction issue despite North Korea's launch of a military reconnaissance satellite.