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North Korean leader’s sister slams U.S. for criticizing failed satellite launch

Kim Yo Jong, sister of North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un
Kim Yo Jong, sister of North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un, attends wreath laying ceremony at Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in Hanoi, Vietnam March 2, 2019. Photo by Jorge Silva /REUTERS

SEOUL, South Korea — The powerful sister of North Korean Kim Jong Un on Thursday accused the United States of “gangster-like” hypocrisy for criticizing her country’s failed launch of a military spy satellite and insisted a successful launch will be made soon.

Kim Yo Jong said North Korea’s efforts to acquire space-based reconnaissance capabilities were a legitimate exercise of its sovereign right and restated the country’s rejection of U.N. Security Council resolutions that ban it from conducting any launch involving ballistic missile technology.

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Her comments on state media came a day after the rocket carrying the satellite failed. North Korea said the rocket lost thrust after a stage separation and crashed in waters off the Korean Peninsula’s western coast.

Washington, South Korea and Japan had quickly criticized the launch. Adam Hodge, a spokesperson at the U.S. National Security Council, said Washington strongly condemns the North Korean launch because it used banned ballistic missile technology, raised tensions and risked destabilizing security in the region and beyond.

“If the DPRK’s satellite launch should be particularly censured, the U.S. and all other countries, which have already launched thousands of satellites, should be denounced. This is nothing but sophism of self-contradiction,” she said, using the initials of North Korea’s formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.


She noted how the United States closely monitors the North through its own reconnaissance satellites and other aerial assets, calling the Americans a “group of gangsters” who would deem it as “illegal and threatening” had North Korea attempted to send a satellite into space by balloon.

“The far-fetched logic that only the DPRK should not be allowed to do so according to the (U.N. Security Council’s) ‘resolution’ which bans the use of ballistic rocket technology irrespective of its purpose, though other countries are doing so, is clearly a gangster-like and wrong one of seriously violating the DPRK’s right to use space and illegally oppressing it,” she said.

“It is certain that the DPRK’s military reconnaissance satellite will be correctly put on space orbit in the near future and start its mission,” she added.

Citing what she described as U.S. hostility toward the North, Kim reiterated that Pyongyang has no intent to reengage in negotiations with Washington, which have stalemated since 2019 because of disagreements over crippling U.S.-led sanctions imposed over the North’s nuclear weapons and missiles program.

Wednesday’s launch extended a provocative run in North Korean military demonstrations, including the test-firings of around 100 missiles since the start of 2022 that underscored Kim Jong Un’s attempts to acquire dual ability to conduct nuclear strikes on both the U.S. mainland and South Korea.

Wednesday’s failed launch raised security jitters in South Korea and Japan, where residents in some areas were briefly urged to take shelter shortly after the launch. South Korea’s military later said it was salvaging an object presumed to be part of the North Korean rocket. Lee Sung Joon, spokesperson of South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, said during a briefing Thursday that the country’s navy has mobilized more vessels and aircraft in search of additional debris to recover and analyze. U.S. and South Korean intelligence officials are closely monitoring North Korea over possible launch preparations but it wasn’t immediately clear whether the North would attempt another launch within the stated June 11 launch window.

The International Maritime Organization’s maritime safety committee adopted a rare resolution Wednesday denouncing North Korea for conducting launches without proper notification, which have “seriously threatened the safety of seafarers and international shipping.”

Japan’s coast guard, which coordinates and distributes navigational warnings in the region, wasn’t notified by North Korea until Monday, although such warnings should be made no less than five days in advance. The IMO said it “urgently calls upon (North Korea) to cease unlawful and unannounced ballistic missile launches across international shipping lanes.”

A military spy satellite is one of several high-tech weapons systems that Kim has publicly vowed to develop to bolster his nuclear deterrent in the face of U.S. sanctions and pressure. Other weapons on his wish list include a multi-warhead missile, a nuclear submarine, a solid-propellant intercontinental ballistic missile and a hypersonic missile.

While North Korea with past long-range missile and rocket tests has shown it can put satellites in space, it’s less clear whether its technology has advanced enough to meet its stated goal of using satellites to monitor U.S. and South Korean military activities in real time.

The two Earth-observation satellites it placed in orbit in 2012 and 2016 never transmitted imagery back to North Korea, foreign experts say. And analysts say the new device displayed recently in state media appeared too small and crudely designed to process and transfer high-resolution imagery.

The U.N. Security Council imposed economic sanctions on North Korea over its previous satellite and ballistic missile launches, but it has failed to punish the North over its recent tests. The council’s permanent members China and Russia have continuously rejected U.S.-led efforts to toughen sanctions on Pyongyang, underscoring a divide deepened over Russia’s war on Ukraine.