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North Korea slams ‘sinister’ South and allies as live-fire exercises with US begin

North Korean media has criticised as “sinister measures” plans by South Korea, the United States and Japan to share real-time data on missile launches by Kim Jong-un’s regime – with the North lashing out as its neighbour this week undertook its largest-ever live-fire exercises with the US.

The leaders of South Korea, the US and Japan met at the G7 summit in Hiroshima, Japan, last weekend and discussed new coordination in the face of North Korea’s illicit nuclear and missile threats. North Korea has undertaken a series of missile and weapons tests in recent months, most recently a new solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). The North’s missile and nuclear weapons programmes are banned by the UN security council.

With Kim Jong-un last week inspecting what North Korea says is its first spy satellite, South Korea on Thursday said it successfully flew its domestically made space rocket, delivering a commercial-grade satellite into orbit.

The Nuri rocket lifted off from Naro space centre on the southern coast of South Korea at 6.24pm in its third flight after technical glitches caused the launch to be cancelled a day earlier. Among eight satellites onboard the rocket was a commercial-grade satellite that made contact with a base station in Antarctica after successfully deploying, said the science minister, Lee Jong-ho. Six other cubesats were also deployed; the outcome for a seventh cubesat was not yet known.

President Yoon Suk Yeol said the launch placed South Korea among the top seven countries that have put domestically produced satellites into orbit with domestically built launch vehicles.

The Nuri is central to South Korea’s ambitious plans to jumpstart its space programme and boost progress in 6G networks, spy satellites and even lunar probes.

South Korea’s homegrown Nuri rocket, carrying eight satellites, lifts off from Naro space centre in Goheung, South Jeolla province. Photograph: Korea Aerospace Research Institute/EPA

Seoul also plans to launch military satellites, but has ruled out any weapons use for the Nuri.

Construction at North Korea’s satellite-launching station has hit a “new level of urgency”, a US-based thinktank said in a report on Thursday, citing satellite imagery.

Meanwhile, South Korea is reportedly to start sending hundreds of thousands of artillery rounds to Ukraine. The Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed sources, said Seoul had reached the “confidential arrangement” with Washington to transfer the shells to the US to be delivered to Ukraine.

Jeon Ha-kyu, spokesman at South Korea’s defence ministry, said on Thursday that it had been in talks with the Pentagon on ammunition exports but that there were “inaccurate parts” in the WSJ report. South Korea had previously ruled out sending lethal aid to Ukraine, citing business ties with Russia and Moscow’s influence over North Korea.

Arming Ukraine would set South Korea even further apart on the international stage from North Korea, which backs Russia in the Ukraine war, is believed to have supplied Russia’s military, and along with Syria is one of only two countries recognising Russia’s annexation of Ukrainian territories.

With Reuters

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