Kim Yo-jong, the younger sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, has hit back at critics of the secretive state’s “poor quality” spy satellite.
Two rocket launches over the weekend had been, according to Pyongyang, tests of systems for its first military reconnaissance satellite and two quite low-resolution images of South Korean cities as seen from space were later released to the North Korean media.
But according to South Korean defence sources, the images weren’t good enough for strategic use and the announcement of a spy satellite was just a cover for further tests of North Korea’s medium-range ballistic missiles.
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Kim Yo-jong, tipped by many to be North Korea’s next leader, hit back at the criticisms, telling the state-run Korean Central News Agency that the criticism was "rubbish".
“Didn’t they think their assessments are too inadequate and imprudent as they commented on our satellite development capability and related preparations only with two photos that we’ve published in our newspaper?” she said.
Claiming that the launches had involved two “old” missiles repurposed as space launch vehicles, Yo-jong described criticisms of the released images as “malicious disparaging,” and no more than “dog barking”.
“I think it’s better for them to stop talking nonsense, behave carefully and think twice,” she added.
North Korean missile tests are normally fired at very steep trajectories in order to avoid crossing into the airspace of neighbouring countries. A more conventional trajectory could potentially threaten the US.
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In her statement, Yo-jong also appeared to threaten a newICBM launch at a trajectory that could prove the missile's ability to reach the US mainland.
Meanwhile, in response to the twin launches, the US and South Korea conducted joint air drills on Tuesday (December 20) involving USAF B-52 bombers and F-22 stealth fighters.
The exercises were held southwest of Jeju Island, the South Korean defence ministry said in a press release, in order to "reinforce the credibility of US extended deterrence”.
"Extended deterrence" refers to the US commitment to use any and all military capabilities, including the use of nuclear weapons, to defend South Korea.
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