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South Korea has key rocket launch

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA (AP) – South Korea said it made its first successful launch of a solid-fuel rocket yesterday in what it called a major development toward acquiring a space surveillance capability amid rising animosities with rival North Korea.

The launch came six days after North Korea conducted its first intercontinental ballistic missile test since 2017 in an apparent attempt to expand its weapons arsenal and increase pressure on the Biden administration amid stalled talks.

South Korea’s domestically built solid-propellant rocket was launched from a state-run testing facility with the presence of Defence Minister Suh Wook and other senior officials, the Defence Ministry said.

It said solid-fuel rockets have simpler structures and are cheaper to develop and manufacture than liquid-fuel rockets. It said solid-fuel rockets also reduce launch times. The statement said South Korea will soon launch a spy satellite into orbit aboard a solid-fuel rocket.

South Korea currently has no military reconnaissance satellite of its own and depends on the United States (US) spy satellites to monitor strategic facilities in North Korea.

In 2020, South Korea won US consent to use solid fuel for space launch vehicles, a restriction that Washington had previously imposed on its key Asian ally out of concerns that its use could lead to building bigger missiles and trigger a regional arms race.

Yesterday’s launch came amid tensions over North Korea’s ICBM launch last Thursday, which broke its own moratorium on big weapons tests and violated multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions.

South Korea’s Defence Ministry concluded earlier this week that North Korea fired the Hwasong-15 ICBM, rather than the newer, bigger, longer-range Hwasong-17 that North Korea claimed to have tested.

Mock South and North Korean missiles at Korea War Memorial Museum in Seoul, South Korea. PHOTO: AP