The South Korean Interior Ministry later admitted that the airstrike alert was a mistake.
Wednesday morning in South Korea and Japan began unusually tense. The fact is that the DPRK launched a space launch vehicle in a southerly direction, which was announced early in the morning at an unscheduled meeting of the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff.
At half past six in the morning local time, the Seoul authorities announced an air strike alert. In an emergency message sent to citizens by phone, they urged to prepare for evacuation, above all, to protect children, the elderly and people with disabilities. The announcement of the alarm also sounded from all the loudspeakers in the streets of the capital.
Half an hour later, an air raid alert was announced on the Japanese island of Okinawa. In the alert, which reached the Japanese by telephone and broadcast on television, the security services urged citizens to take refuge in solid buildings or underground facilities. They also warned air and sea vessels to remain vigilant and cautious in connection with the missile launch.
However, the fears of both countries were not justified. The South Korean Ministry of Interior later acknowledged that the airstrike had been announced in error and that the DPRK launch vehicle had flown over the Yellow Sea without affecting Seoul. In turn, the Japanese government also announced that the missile would not fly over their island, and the alarm was cancelled.
The South Korean military later reported that the propellant had disappeared from radar. After some time, they added that as a result of the “abnormal” flight, the rocket fell into the Yellow Sea, about 200 kilometers west of the South Korean island of Ocheondo.
In the end, North Korea cleared things up on its own.
“During the flight of a new launch vehicle of the Chollima-1 type with the Mannigen-1 military reconnaissance satellite, after the separation of the first stage, the second stage engine did not start, due to which it lost momentum. and fell into the Yellow Sea,” the DPRK Central Telegraph Agency announced.
Declaring the launch a failure, North Korea’s National Space Development Agency said it would take urgent steps to investigate and fix the flaws and “relaunch it as soon as possible.” The alleged causes of the failure were the unreliability and instability of the new engine system and the characteristics of the fuel used.
Such statements by Pyongyang further worried its southern neighbors, in connection with which the US, South Korea and Japan held emergency talks. The parties agreed to maintain vigilance and close cooperation to strengthen regional security, including deterrence and response forces, according to the report.
However, Asan Yang Wook, a specialist at the South Korean Institute of Political Studies, pointed out that even if the satellite launch were successful, its effect would still be limited.
“This satellite is a device about 90 centimeters long and 60 centimeters wide, which can house about four reflective plates and only two optical cameras. The quality of its images will be low, so the effect of its use for military intelligence purposes is extremely limited,” Yang Wook explained.
Previously, North Korea transmitted information to the International Maritime Organization about its intention to launch a satellite between May 31 and June 11. According to Yang Wook, Pyongyang is in such a hurry and does not want to significantly change the launch date, as the rainy season will start soon in the region.