North Korea will launch its first military reconnaissance satellite in June for monitoring US activities, state media KCNA reported on Tuesday, drawing criticism over its potential use of banned missile technology.
Ri Pyong Chol, vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission of the North's ruling Workers' Party, denounced ongoing joint military exercises by the US and South Korea as openly showing "reckless ambition for aggression."
Drills have begun to combat potential attacks by North Korea
South Korean and US forces began live-fire exercises simulating a "full-scale attack" from North Korea last week in what they said were the biggest such drills to demonstrate their "overwhelming" military capability against the
US and South Korean forces have carried out various training exercises in recent months, including the biggest-ever live-fire exercises last week, after many drills were scaled back amid COVID-19 restrictions and diplomatic efforts with North Korea.
Ri said the drills required Pyongyang to have the "means capable of gathering information about the military acts of the enemy in real time."
"We will comprehensively consider the present and future threats and put into more thoroughgoing practice the activities for strengthening all-inclusive and practical war deterrents," Ri said in the statement carried by the KCNA news agency.
Nuclear-armed North Korea has said it has completed development of its first military spy satellite, and leader Kim Jong Un has approved final preparations for the launch.
The statement did not specify the exact launch date, but North Korea has notified Japan of a planned launch between May 31 and June 11, prompting Tokyo to put its ballistic missile defenses on alert.
Japan has said it would shoot down any projectile that threatens its territory.
"Even if North Korea might call it a 'satellite', this is a violation of relevant UN Security Council resolutions that prohibit North Korea from all launches using the ballistic missile technology," Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi told a news conference on Tuesday.
South Korea's foreign ministry also slammed the North's use of ballistic missile technology as a clear violation of the UN sanctions, saying Ri was making a "farfetched excuse" to bolster its weapons programs.
"It is a nonsense to use our legitimate joint training and combined defense posture with the US, which were to respond to North Korea's advanced nuclear and missile threats, as an excuse for launching a reconnaissance satellite," ministry spokesman Lim Soo-suk told a briefing.
Lim urged Pyongyang to drop its plan, and vowed to sternly respond any launches.
A US State Department spokesperson said on Monday any North Korean launch using ballistic missile technology, including for a satellite, would violate UN resolutions.
The launch would be the North's latest in a series of missile launches and weapons tests, including one of a new, solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile last month.
Analysts say the satellite will improve North Korea's surveillance capability, enabling it to strike targets more accurately in the event of war.