South Korea has recovered part of a missile used in North Korea’s failed attempt to launch its first military satellite last month.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said Friday that the fragment was found the night before and that the search continues for other objects from what the North claimed was a space launch vehicle.
North Korea attempted to launch its first spy satellite into space on a Chollima-1 rocket on May 31, but the rocket encountered difficulties in flight and fell into the sea. The flight was the sixth attempt to launch a satellite by the nuclear-armed country and its countries. For the first time since 2016.
South Korea has conducted rescue operations around the western coastal island of Eocheongdo to find debris from the accident with heavy parts believed to have fallen to the sea floor at a depth of about 75 metres.
Footage released by the South Korean military showed sailors preparing to lift a large cylindrical object about 15 meters (49 feet) long from the sea.
“The body found will be thoroughly analyzed by specialized organizations, including the Defense Development Agency,” the Army said in a statement.
The Navy deployed a specially trained group of divers, two rescue vessels and a salvage vessel as well as an underwater rescue vessel and a P-3 maritime patrol aircraft as part of the rescue operation, the Navy said. Yonhap news agency reported, citing a joint commander of the personnel official.
She added that the effort faced a number of challenges, including underwater visibility of only 50 centimeters (20 in).
North Korea is rapidly modernizing its military arsenal, with leader Kim Jong Un promising to put its first spy satellite into orbit as part of a military development programme.
It conducted a record number of weapons tests in 2022 and continued its launch program throughout this year despite a UN ban on ballistic missile launches.
On Thursday evening, it launched two short-range ballistic missiles, in a move condemned by the United States, Japan and South Korea.
The launch coincided with the start of military exercises in South Korea, in which several thousand South Korean and American forces participated.
Pyongyang has described the exercises as rehearsals for invasion, and justified its weapons program as being necessary for its own defence.