The United States swiftly criticized the launch, labeling it a threat to the "stability and prosperity on the Korean peninsula."
The launch came on the heels of a warning from the South Korean military on Monday, which had detected activities from the North indicative of preparations for a satellite launch.
"North Korea launched what it claims to be a military reconnaissance satellite in a southern direction," stated South Korea's Joint Chief of Staff late Tuesday. The Joint Chiefs of Staff have yet to provide further details, including the success of the test, the location of the launch, or any related flight data.
Contrarily, Pyongyang's state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) asserted that the satellite, named 'Chollima-1,' had been successfully launched into orbit.
"'Chollima-1' flew normally along the scheduled flight trajectory and accurately entered the reconnaissance satellite 'Wangli-1' into orbit at 22:54:13, 705 seconds after launch," KCNA reported. The news agency further justified the launch as North Korea's "legal right to strengthen its right to self-defense," claiming it would significantly enhance the military readiness of the nation amid "the enemy's dangerous military maneuvers."
The United States, however, has expressed strong disapproval of the launch. U.S. State Department spokesman Matthew Miller stated that while the U.S. could not verify KCNA's claim, it unequivocally condemned the launch as perilous.
"I cannot confirm that assessment. It is still something that's ongoing inside the United States government," Miller said. He declined to comment on the security implications of Pyongyang possessing such a spy satellite but emphasized that the launch "violates multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions" by using ballistic missiles and "undermines stability and prosperity on the Korean peninsula."
The United Nations prohibits North Korea from launching a ballistic rocket due to the dual-use nature of rocket technology, which can be utilized for both satellite and missile launches. This prohibition remains in place even if North Korea claims the launch is for a satellite.
This launch follows two unsuccessful attempts by North Korea to launch a satellite in August, three months after a failed first attempt.
South Korea has responded to the launch with stern warnings. Kang Ho-pil, the JCS's chief director of operations, strongly urged North Korea to cease the launch, promising that Seoul would take necessary countermeasures.
An anonymous military source told Radio Free Asia late Tuesday that South Korea is likely to suspend the effectiveness of the 2018 inter-Korean military agreement. The agreement, which has been criticized for limiting Seoul's operational and surveillance capabilities, requires both Koreas to halt hostile actions toward each other near the border.
South Korea's defense minister Shin Won-sik admitted last month that the agreement has curtailed the South's surveillance capability against North Korean provocations.
The launch coincides with South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol's state visit to the United Kingdom, where he pledged to strengthen Seoul's security ties with London.
North Korea has a history of provocations during the absence of South Korean presidents, seemingly to test Seoul's response capabilities and the efficiency of its systems.