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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korean officials have expressed their determination to proceed with a second launch of a spy satellite following the failure of their initial attempt last month, which they labeled as the most significant setback of the year. State media reported on Monday that the country’s top officials strongly criticized those responsible for the failed launch.
The rocket carrying a military reconnaissance satellite crashed shortly after liftoff in late May, impeding Kim Jong Un’s pursuit of a space-based surveillance system to enhance monitoring of the United States and South Korea. The failed launch and North Korea’s endeavors to modernize its weapons arsenal were extensively discussed during a three-day ruling party meeting, attended by Kim and other high-ranking officials.
While the Korean Central News Agency’s dispatch did not specify the speakers, it reported that a report presented during the meeting severely admonished the officials who negligently handled the preparations for the satellite launch. The report outlined the tasks assigned to officials and scientists, urging them to learn from the failure, identify the cause of the rocket’s crash, and achieve a successful launch within a short timeframe, according to KCNA.
The exact timing of North Korea’s second launch attempt was not mentioned. However, South Korea’s spy agency previously informed lawmakers that it would likely take “several weeks or more” for North Korea to ascertain the cause of the failed launch.
There have been no reports from North Korea monitoring groups regarding purges or dismissals of scientists or individuals involved in the unsuccessful launch.
A spy satellite is just one of the advanced military assets publicly pledged by Kim to counter what he perceives as U.S.-led hostility. Other weapons systems on Kim’s wish list include a multi-warhead missile, a nuclear submarine, a solid-propellant intercontinental ballistic missile, and a hypersonic missile.
Since the beginning of 2022, North Korea has conducted over 100 missile tests, some of which were connected to the development of a spy satellite and other formidable weapons sought by Kim.
During the meeting, Politburo members also analyzed the “extremely deteriorating security situation” in the region caused by the “reckless war moves” of North Korea’s rivals, likely referring to the expanded military drills of the United States and South Korea.
In response to North Korea’s advancing nuclear arsenal, the United States and South Korea have been expanding their joint military exercises and warning that any use of nuclear weapons would lead to the downfall of Kim’s government.
The Politburo members outlined unspecified “important tasks” to strengthen solidarity with countries opposed to the “U.S. brigandish strategy for world supremacy,” as stated by KCNA.
North Korea has been seeking to enhance its relations with Russia, including supporting its military actions in Ukraine, which it claims are in defense against the West’s “hegemonic policy.”
The country has also been working to deepen its ties with China, its primary ally and economic lifeline, as China engages in an increasingly intense strategic rivalry with the United States concerning trade, technology, and regional influence.
Russia and China, both permanent members of the U.N. Security Council with veto power, have consistently blocked efforts by the U.S. and others to impose stricter U.N. sanctions on North Korea due to its missile tests.
The party meeting also addressed efforts to improve North Korea’s struggling economy, which experts say has been further strained by pandemic-related border closures.
According to KCNA, progress has been made in increasing agricultural output and reviving production in the metal and chemical industries, although some shortcomings were acknowledged. KCNA also claimed advancements in the construction sector, citing a project to construct tens of thousands of new homes in the capital city of Pyongyang.
Verifying these claims is virtually impossible, as North Korea is one of the most secretive countries in the world. Despite the hardships caused by the pandemic, experts note that there are no signs of social unrest or famine in North Korea.
KCNA did not indicate whether Kim delivered a speech during the plenary meeting of the Workers’ Party Central Committee.
Koo Byoungsam, spokesperson for South Korea’s Unification Ministry, expressed surprise at the absence of a public speech by Kim during such a high-profile party meeting. Koo suggested that the lack of a speech may be attributed to the satellite launch failure and North Korea’s limited economic achievements.