North Korea has conducted an "important final-stage" test at its rocket launching facility on putting a military reconnaissance satellite into orbit, with a plan to complete preparations for the project by April next year, according to its state media Monday.
The test was conducted at the Sohae Satellite Launching Ground on Sunday mainly to "evaluate the capabilities of satellite photography and data transmission system and ground control system," according to the Korean Central News Agency.
The country fired a vehicle carrying a "test-piece satellite" at a lofted angle to an altitude of 500 kilometers, an unnamed spokesperson at the National Aerospace Development Administration said in a statement carried by the KCNA.
North Korea will "finish the preparations for the first military reconnaissance satellite by April, 2023," the official said, adding the results of the test were immediately reported to the central military committee of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea.
South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said Sunday it detected the launches of two medium-range ballistic missiles from Tongchang-ri areas into the East Sea. The missiles, fired at steep angles, flew some 500 kilometers, it added.
It is not immediately known whether North Korean leader Kim Jong-un oversaw Sunday's firing. The KCNA released photos of Seoul and its adjacent city of Incheon presumed to be shot from the test-piece satellite.
North Korea launched Hwasong-17 intercontinental ballistic missiles in February and March, claiming they were test-launches of spy satellites.
Outside experts said North Korea's purported launch of a satellite is widely seen as a covert test of ballistic missile technology. North Korea is banned from developing ballistic missiles under a series of UN sanctions.
The Sohae rocket launching facility in Tongchang-ri of the country's northwest areas is a site where North Korea tested a high-thrust solid-fuel rocket engine last week for a "new-type strategic weapon system," a move seen as developing a solid-fuel ICBM capable of reaching the US mainland.
At a key party congress in January last year, Kim Jong-un laid out plans to develop high-tech weapons systems, including tactical nuclear weapons, solid-fuel ICBMs and a spy satellite.
North Korea has fired nearly 40 ballistic missiles so far this year, the largest in a single year, including last month's launch of a Hwasong-17 ICBM, amid speculation it may conduct a nuclear test. (Yonhap).