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Japan Launching Spy Satellite To Monitor North Korea

Jan. 23, 2013 - 08:19AM   |  
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TOKYO — Japan is to launch a new spy satellite Jan. 27 to strengthen its monitoring capabilities amid concern that North Korea may carry out more missile and nuclear tests.

A rocket carrying a radar-equipped satellite is scheduled to blast off from a space center at Tanegashima in the southwest, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency has announced. The space agency said the satellite would be used for information-gathering, including data following Japan’s 2011 quake and tsunami, and did not mention North Korea by name.

The launch, planned for between 1 and 3 p.m. (0400-0600 GMT) Jan. 27, comes after Pyongyang rejected dialogue on its atomic program following tightened U.N. sanctions for a banned rocket launch. The North’s foreign ministry responded angrily to the U.N. Security Council action, saying there would be “no dialogue to discuss denuclearization” and hinting that a new atomic test could be planned.

Japan hopes the satellite launch will enable it to complete a system first devised in the early 1990s as a response to fears about North Korea. From an altitude of several hundred kilometers, the satellite will be able to detect objects on the ground as small as a square meter, including at night and through cloud cover, thanks to its radar.

Tokyo has four operational satellites in space, of which just one is equipped with radar. It has used satellites for monitoring and information-gathering since the late 1990s.

Last year, Pyongyang launched two long-range rockets. The first failed, but the second in December flew over the southern Okinawa island chain, jangling nerves in Japan.

North Korea insists its Dec. 12 rocket launch was a peaceful, scientific mission aimed at putting a satellite in space. The U.N. condemned it as a disguised ballistic missile test.

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