Japanese Defense Minister Minoru Kihara said Friday the government has confirmed that “some object” launched by North Korea is “orbiting the Earth,” after Pyongyang launched what it said was a reconnaissance satellite earlier this week.
Kihara told reporters that the latest assessment was made in collaboration with the United States and South Korea, but he refrained from commenting on whether the North’s launch was successful.
He added Japan will carefully analyze whether the object has been functioning as intended since its launch, which occurred about an hour before the start of a pre-noticed nine-day window from Wednesday.
North Korea claimed through its official media on Wednesday that it had “successfully” launched a new rocket carrying a reconnaissance satellite the previous day and had placed it “accurately” in orbit.
Pyongyang also said the satellite will officially begin operation on Dec. 1. After failed attempts in May and August, North Korea announced it would conduct another launch in October but did not follow through.
Initially, Japan, which had urged North Korea not to conduct a launch using ballistic missile technology, said it had not confirmed whether the payload had entered space. U.N. resolutions ban the use of ballistic missile technology by Pyongyang.
South Korea said Thursday that the North’s launch was successful and that the payload had been put into orbit, adding Pyongyang received technological assistance from Russia.
In May, Japan issued an order for its Self-Defense Forces to shoot down any projectile on course to fall in the country’s territory using ground-based Patriot Advanced Capability-3 interceptor missiles and Aegis-equipped destroyers.
With the possibility of additional launches by North Korea, Kihara said his ministry would “make an appropriate decision” on whether to maintain or lift the order “while analyzing and assessing various information.”
In a related move, a website run by the U.S. Space Force showed the nation’s military had given the North Korean satellite a number, suggesting Washington acknowledges it has entered into orbit.
The U.S. Defense Department, however, said whether North Korea succeeded in the satellite launch was still under analysis.
by Nadeem Faisal Baiga Source Kyodo