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Update: North Korea conducts test to support development of ‘reconnaissance satellite'

According to the Japanese Ministry of Defense, the missile that North Korea launched on 27 February travelled 300 km and reached a maximum altitude of about 600 km before falling outside Japan's exclusive economic zone. The partly obscured yellow dot in this Japan MoD image indicates Pyongyang, while the red dot shows the missile's estimated launch site. (Japan MoD)

North Korea launched on 27 February a test to support its development of a new reconnaissance satellite. The test was conducted the same day that Japan and South Korea reported that Pyongyang had launched what they said was a ballistic missile.

North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said on 28 February that the unspecified “important test” was aligned to the country's “plan for the development of a reconnaissance satellite”.

It said the test was conducted by North Korea's National Space Development Administration and the Academy of National Defense Science.

According to the KCNA, the test confirmed the “characteristics and operation accuracy of the high-resolution imaging system, the data transmission system, and the altitude-control system”.

It said the test featured “vertical and oblique photographing of a specific area on the ground” with cameras that will be “installed on the reconnaissance satellite”. KCNA added, “This test is important in the development of reconnaissance satellites.”

The KCNA report made no reference to missiles or missile launches. However, on 27 February, South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said it had detected the launch of a North Korean ballistic missile, which it said was fired from the Sunan area in Pyongyang shortly before 8 am. It said the missile flew about 300 km and gained a maximum altitude of 620 km.

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