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U.S. and its allies condemn North Korea's failed attempt to launch a spy satellite


The U.S. Senate's allies are condemning an attempt to launch North Korea's first spy satellite. It failed, but Pyongyang's use of ballistic missile technology is banned under U.N. resolutions. And as NPR's Anthony Kuhn reports from Seoul, the satellite could also give North Korea an eye in the sky, which to the allies is not a welcome development either.

ANTHONY KUHN, BYLINE: North Korean missile launches are a fact of life in Seoul. The North has launched over a hundred of them since the beginning of last year. Still, today's launch was hard to ignore.


KUHN: Air raid sirens went off. Cellphones and loudspeakers warned citizens to seek shelter.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Speaking in Korean).

KUHN: Japan's government urged residents of the island of Okinawa to take cover. All the warnings were canceled or lifted when it became clear the projectile posed no threat. North Korean state media reported that the rocket's second stage malfunctioned and the projectile fell in the Yellow Sea off South Korea's west coast. South Korea's military says it fished pieces of the rocket out of the water. Kim Byung-joo, an opposition Democratic Party lawmaker and retired four-star army general, says that a spy satellite would be an important addition to North Korea's arsenal of missiles.

KIM BYUNG-JOO: (Through interpreter) Not just with missiles, but with other various North Korean weapon systems like long-range artillery. They need to be able to see to launch an attack. So North Korea getting the ability to see means a huge threat to us.

KUHN: Pyongyang notified Japan on Monday and the International Maritime Organization on Tuesday that it would launch a satellite in late May or early June. Nuclear envoys of the U.S., South Korea and Japan warned on Monday of a stern united response from the international community if Pyongyang went ahead with it. But it's not clear what can be done with the U.N. Security Council divided and North Korea refusing to return to the negotiating table. Lawmaker Kim Byung-joo says more saber rattling will not help.

KIM: (Through interpreter) South Korean people and the Democratic Party are concerned that the Yoon Suk Yeol and Biden administrations are too focused on military responses and are neglectful of opening dialogues to make peace.

KUHN: North Korea, meanwhile, says it'll try to launch another spy satellite as soon as possible.

Anthony Kuhn, NPR News, Seoul. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Anthony Kuhn is NPR's correspondent based in Seoul, South Korea, reporting on the Korean Peninsula, Japan, and the great diversity of Asia's countries and cultures. Before moving to Seoul in 2018, he traveled to the region to cover major stories including the North Korean nuclear crisis and the Fukushima earthquake and nuclear disaster.