Tokyo: Japan on Friday launched a new spy satellite as there is growing worry over North Korea’s quickening missile and nuclear programs, said the country’s space agency.
According to a report in the Japan Times, the Radar 5 unit was carried into space on Japan’s mainstay H-IIA rocket from a launch site in the country’s southwest. It is meant to replace an existing satellite that is approaching the end of its mission.
Japan began putting spy satellites into orbit in 2003 after North Korea fired a midrange ballistic missile over the Japanese mainland and into the Western Pacific in 1998.
The threat has steadily accelerated and just last week Pyongyang fired four ballistic missiles, with three landing in waters provocatively close to Japan.
Tokyo currently maintains three optical satellites for daytime surveillance and three radar satellites for nighttime monitoring. The new satellite will succeed one of the three radar satellites launched in 2011, said the report.
The satellites are officially for “information gathering” and are also used to monitor damage in the wake of natural disasters.
Meanwhile, CNN reported that the US intelligence community and the Defense Department are increasingly anticipating that North Korea will soon undertake a new round of testing of its missile and nuclear program, according to some US officials.