Japan fired off a brand new spy satellite into orbit Friday morning in an effort to keep a closer eye on rival North Korea. The launch appeared to be a response to Kim Jong Un’s increased threats toward the Asian power and its allies in recent months, Japan Times reported.
Japan, which started sending satellites to surveil North Korea back in 2003, flew out the Information Gathering Satellite (IGS) Radar 5 on its H-IIA rocket from Tanegashima Space Center, according to Space.com. This happened five years after the North fired a ballistic missile over its mainland.
It was the 15th satellite launched by Japan over the last 14 years, but Japan had not released any information about the new satellite. They are typically used for “information gathering” and can also see the full extent of from natural disasters. It is supposed to replace another satellite that is close to ending its mission, The Times reported Friday.
The North recently put Japan, as well as the United States, China and South Korea, on edge after its latest missile tests. Kim’s military tested four intermediate-range ballistic missiles March 6 by firing them east toward Japan. They specifically stated afterward they were aiming for U.S. military bases stationed there.
The missiles fell into the Sea of Japan after they traveled some 620 miles. Three of them fell inside Japan’s exclusive economic zone, which extends 200 nautical miles from its coastline, CNN reported.
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The North was conducting tests for years, much to the dismay of the United Nations and its sanctions, but the fact it had been able to test so quickly following a previous test on Feb. 12 put much of the region on edge and fearing war. Last year alone, the North had conducted, or at least claimed, six different tests including a fifth nuclear test, according to Bloomberg.