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North Korean satellite wasn’t advanced enough to conduct reconnaissance from space, Seoul says

SEOUL (AP) – The satellite North Korea failed to put into orbit wasn’t advanced enough to conduct military reconnaissance from space as it claimed, South Korea’s military said yesterday after retrieving and studying the wreckage.

North Korea had tried to launch its first spy satellite in late May, but the long-range rocket carrying it plunged into the waters off the Korean Peninsula’s west coast soon after liftoff.

The satellite was to be part of a space-based reconnaissance system North Korea says it needs to counter escalating security threats from South Korea and the United States (US).

South Korea mobilised navy ships, aircraft and divers to recover debris from the rocket and satellite in a 36-day operation that ended yesterday, the South’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.

“Numerous” and “key” parts of the rocket and the satellite were recovered and the South Korean and US experts who jointly examined them concluded the satellite wasn’t capable of conducting military reconnaissance works at all, the statement said. North Korea didn’t immediately respond to the South Korean announcement.

The day the launch failed, North Korea’s state media said the rocket lost thrust following the separation of its first and second stages, then crashed into the sea.

At a ruling party meeting last month, North Korea called the failed launch “the most serious” shortcoming this year and harshly criticized those responsible.

Top North Korean officials have repeatedly vowed to attempt a second launch.

An object salvaged by South Korea’s military that is presumed to be part of the North Korean space-launch vehicle. PHOTO: AP