N Korea calls failed spy satellite launch ‘the most serious’ shortcoming

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Top North Korean officials vowed to push for a second attempt to launch a spy satellite as they called their country’s first, and failed, launch last month “the most serious” shortcoming this year and harshly criticized those responsible, state media reported Monday.

In late May, a North Korean rocket carrying a military reconnaissance satellite crashed soon after liftoff, posing a setback to leader Kim Jong Un’s push to acquire a space-based surveillance system to better monitor the United States and South Korea.

The failed launch and North Korean efforts to modernize its weapons arsenals were discussed extensively at a three-day ruling party meeting that ended Sunday, with the presence of Kim and other top officials.

A lengthy Korean Central News Agency dispatch on the meeting didn’t clearly say who spoke, but said a report to the meeting “bitterly criticized the officials who irresponsibly conducted the preparations for (the) satellite launch.”

The report set forth tasks for officials and scientists to learn the lessson of the failed launch, find what caused the rocket’s crash and make a successful launch in a short span of time, KCNA said.

It didn’t say exactly when North Korea might attempt a second launch. But South Korea’s spy agency earlier told lawmakers that it would take likely take “more than several weeks” for North Korea to determine what went wrong in the failed launch.

North Korea monitoring groups haven’t reported any purges or dismissals of scientists or others involved in the failed launch.

A spy satellite is among several high-tech military assets Kim has publicly vowed to acquire to cope with what he calls U.S.-led hostility. Other weapons systems Kim wants to possess are a multi-warhead missile, a nuclear submarine, a solid-propellant intercontinental ballistic missile and a hypersonic missile.

Since the start of 2022, North Korea has carried out more than 100 missile tests, some of which were related to developing a spy satellite and other powerful weapons on Kim’s wish-list.

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, the report said, apparently referring to the expanded U.S.-South Korea military drills.

The United States and South Korea have been expanding their military drills in response to North Korea’s advancing nuclear arsenal and warn that any attempt to use nuclear weapons would result in the end of Kim’s government.

The Politburo members set down unspecified “important tasks” for strengthening solidarity with countries that are “opposed to the U.S. brigandish strategy for world supremacy,” KCNA said.

North Korea has pushed to boost relations with Russia, including defending its military action in Ukraine. It says Russia is protecting itself against the West’s “hegemonic policy.”

The North has also sought to build on its ties with China, its main ally and economic lifeline that is locked in an intensified strategic rivalry with the United States over trade, technology and regional influence.

Russia and China, both veto-holding permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, have repeatedly blocked attempts by the U.S. and others to toughen U.N. sanctions on North Korea over its missile tests.

The party meeting also discussed efforts to improve North Korea’s struggling economy, which experts say has been further strained by pandemic-related border closures.

KCNA said there has been some progress in efforts to boost agricultural output and revive production in metal and chemical industries, though it acknowledged unspecified shortcomings. KCNA claimed progress in the construction field, citing a project to build tens of thousands of new homes in the capital, Pyongyang.

It’s virtually impossible to verify the claims by the North, one of the most secretive countries in the world. Experts say there are no signs of social unrest or famine in North Korea despite the pandemic-caused hardships.

KCNA didn’t say whether Kim spoke during the plenary meeting of the Workers’ Party Central Committee.

Koo Byoungsam, spokesperson for South Korea’s Unification Ministry, said it would be highly unusual for Kim to sit through such a high-profile party meeting without a public speech. Koo said the apparent lack of a Kim speech might stem from the satellite launch failure and North Korea’s lack of economic achievements.

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