North Korea fired a missile into space Saturday using ballistic missile technology, according to the U.S. State Department. Pyongyang disputes the claim, saying it launched an earth observation satellite on a rocket named Kwangmyongsong-4.
The U.S., as well as North Korea’s regional enemies, Japan and South Korea, condemned the launch, which came one month after Pyongyang conducted its fourth nuclear test. On January 6, North Korea tested what it said was a hydrogen bomb.
Saturday’s launch was part of the 5-year program for national aerospace development, according to North Korea’s Aerospace Development Administration.
“The fascinating vapor of Juche satellite trailing in the clear and blue sky in spring of February on the threshold of the Day of the Shining Star, the greatest national holiday of Kim Il Sung’s Korea, is a gift of most intense loyalty presented by our space scientists and technicians to the great Comrade Kim Jong Un, our dignified party, state and people,” Pyongyang’s statement reads.
Prior to the launch, Tokyo deployed warships in the Sea of Japan and missile interceptors on land. Japan has said it would shoot down any North Korean missile that threatens Japanese territory.
U.S. officials fear North Korea is developing a nuclear warhead small enough to be mounted on an intercontinental ballistic missile. North Korean ballistic missile technology is considered suspect, though, and it would likely take many years for that to occur.
An emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council is scheduled to take place Sunday to discuss a response to North Korea’s latest test. The UN is expected to debate a new round of sanctions against Pyongyang.