North Korea’s Kim orders launch of ‘completed’ spy satellite

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ordered the launch of the secretive regime’s “completed” spy satellite, state media said Wednesday, claiming it was a response to the “escalating military threat and challenge of the U.S. and South Korea.”

Kim said that the satellite “will be launched at the planned date” during a visit to the National Aerospace Development Administration in Pyongyang on Tuesday, state-run Korean Central News Agency reported.

The North Korean leader, who was accompanied by his young daughter Ju Ae, called on officials of the space program to “speed up … final preparations and firmly establish the satellite intelligence-gathering capability by deploying several reconnaissance satellites on different orbits in succession in the future.”

In December, Pyongyang conducted what it called a “final-stage test” of a device that took aerial photos of South Korea and announced plans to launch a spy satellite into orbit by April.

Kim’s visit comes just days after North Korea test-fired its first solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile, which analysts say could present new challenges for missile defense systems.

The North has conducted a flurry of weapons tests in response to large-scale joint military exercises held last month by the United States and South Korea, which Pyongyang condemned as preparations for an invasion.

Kim said that launching the military reconnaissance satellite is crucial for securing “real-time information about the hostile forces’ military scenario and moves,” KCNA reported.

He also criticized Washington’s extended deterrence commitment to Seoul, which has included the deployment of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and bombers to the Peninsula in recent months, as an effort “to turn South Korea into an advanced base for aggression and an arsenal for war.”

The United States and South Korea kicked off a 12-day joint aerial exercise this week. The allies and Japan also conducted a trilateral naval missile defense exercise on Monday.

Amid the heightened tensions, North Korea has not responded to routine daily calls on an inter-Korean liaison channel since April 7, according to Seoul’s Unification Ministry.

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