BEIJING - North Korea's latest launch was conducted to develop a reconnaissance satellite, state-run media reported Sunday, a day after what was described by neighboring countries as a ballistic missile launch toward the Sea of Japan.
Saturday's test indicated that North Korea is seeking to develop its weapons capabilities while the United States is focused on Russia's invasion of Ukraine, some foreign affairs experts said.
The missile is believed to have fallen outside Japan's exclusive economic zone after flying around 300 kilometers apparently on a lofted trajectory and reaching an altitude of about 550 km, the Japanese Defense Ministry said.
North Korea also carried out a test for the development of a reconnaissance satellite system last Sunday.
Pyongyang has fired projectiles nine times this year but did not test weapons during the 17-day Beijing Winter Olympics through Feb. 20 in consideration of China, its close economic and security ally.
North Korea's National Aerospace Development Administration and Academy of Defense Science "confirmed the reliability of data transmission and reception system of the satellite," the official Korean Central News Agency reported.
At the congress of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea in January 2021, leader Kim Jong Un pledged that Pyongyang would secure reconnaissance and information gathering abilities with the operation of satellite systems.
North Korea fired what it called an Earth observation satellite on a carrier rocket in 2012 on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the birth of the country's late founder Kim Il Sung on April 15, although the launch ended in failure.
Launches of long-range ballistic missiles carrying warheads and rockets capable of delivering satellites use similar technology. Pyongyang is banned from launching ballistic missiles under U.N. Security Council resolutions imposing sanctions on the country.
In January, North Korea hinted at the resumption of nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile tests, saying it may restart all "activities" that were temporarily suspended to build trust with former U.S. President Donald Trump, the predecessor of incumbent Joe Biden.
Speculation is growing that North Korea might fire an ICBM on the 110th birthday of Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Un's grandfather. Saturday's launch also came ahead of South Korea's presidential election on Wednesday.