North Korea's neighbors issue warnings ahead of attempted 'satellite' launch

The last one splashed down badly, but this is no laughing matter – Japan's PM thinks it could be a missile

North Korea intends to launch another "satellite" in coming days, and its neighbors – and the world – are worried.

News of the launch was shared with the government of Japan, where the office of prime minister Fumio Kishida issued a statement – translated into English – titled "Instructions by the Prime Minister in Response to Notification that North Korea Plans to Launch a Ballistic Missile, Referred to as a 'Satellite'."

Fair enough, too. A launcher capable of reaching orbit could likely be repurposed as a long-range missile.

Item three in the statement is therefore "Take all possible measures to ensure the safety and security of the Japanese people, including fully preparing for contingencies."

Among the contingencies to prepare for are chunks of North Korean kit falling into the sea near shipping. South Korea's Yonhap reports relevant authorities at home and in Japan have issued maritime warnings.

Which hardly bespeaks confidence North Korea will get this right. And that's not an unreasonable theory, given that the hermit kingdom's last launch attempt – in May 2023 – ended with an unplanned splashdown in the Yellow Sea.

As the North had boasted its satellite had surveillance capabilities, South Korea's military dredged it up to investigate. Examination of the debris found it had "no military utility as a reconnaissance satellite."

North Korea vowed to try again as soon as possible, and gave Japan a window of between August 24 and 31 for this launch.

PM Yosihda's statement also declares that "In coordination with the United States of America, the Republic of Korea, and other countries concerned, strongly urge North Korea to exercise restraint and refrain from conducting a launch."

Safety is one reason for that call. The other is that whatever North Korea uses to launch its payload will almost certainly have potential for dual use. The pariah nation possesses nuclear weapons, and has long sought long-range missile capabilities so it could plausibly threaten the US and other far-off nations in the hope of some relief from the crippling sanctions imposed due to systemic human rights abuses, belligerence, and flouting of global nuclear regulations.

And then there's the offensive cyber-ops that steal rocket plans (deliciously, from Russia) and swipe cryptocurrency to fund weapons programs – even as the country's population struggles to put nutritious meals on the table.

North Korea is shunned by most nations, but is China's sole formal ally – making it hard for the rest of the world to do much more than protest and take precautions when supreme leader Kim Jong Un orders fresh launches. ®

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