North Korea calls failed satellite launch ‘biggest failure’

SEOUL, June 19 (Reuters) – An unusually candid North Korea said last month’s launch of a military satellite was a “huge failure” but vowed it would soon succeed in its quest, state media reported on Monday.

North Korea’s ruling party held an assessment of its May 31 launch at a three-day meeting that ended Sunday, ordering workers and researchers to review and prepare for the mission, which ended with the rocket and its spy satellite payload sinking into the ocean. For another release soon.

Officials who “conducted preparations irresponsibly” for the failed launch were “severely criticized” at the meeting, state news agency KCNA reported.

North Korea said at the time that the rocket “failed after losing thrust due to abnormal start-up of the second stage engine”.

Nuclear-armed North Korea earlier said it would launch its first military spy satellite, another step in a military plan to increase surveillance of US military operations and raise fears of war.

South Korea’s navy recovered a large, cylindrical piece of the rocket last week, lifted from the sea off the west coast, which experts said could provide clues to the North’s rocket development.

The central committee of the ruling Workers’ Party also discussed improving nuclear capabilities and accelerating nuclear weapons production, the north’s state media reported.

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Leader Kim Jong Un attended the meeting, but there was no mention of whether he delivered a speech or statement, as he usually does at such important policy-making sessions.

A spokesman for South Korea’s Unification Ministry, which handles relations with North Korea, said the lack of a report of Kim’s speech was “extremely rare”.

That and blaming lower-level officials for the failed launch may indicate a loss of confidence, the ministry said.

The party also discussed ensuring adequate food supply.

South Korea recently said the food situation “appears to have worsened” in the North, which has suffered famine in the past.

Isolated North Korea is subject to international sanctions over its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs and its economy has been further strained by self-imposed border lockdowns aimed at stemming the spread of COVID-19.

Separately, KCNA said Kim Yong Chol, a top official believed to have been sidelined after a 2019 summit with the United States ended in failure, has been named as an alternate member of the Politburo of the party’s Central Committee.

Reporting by Hyunsu Yim; Diane Croft, Editing by Robert Birsal

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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