SEOUL (Reuters) -North Korea has begun reconnaissance satellite operations, state news agency KCNA said on Sunday, after the country launched its first military spy satellite last month in a move that drew new sanctions from the U.S. and its allies.
The new satellite operations office at the Pyongyang General Control Centre of the National Aerospace Technology Administration (NATA), started to discharge its mission on Saturday and will report acquired information to the reconnaissance bureau at the army and other major units, KCNA said.
North Korea says it successfully launched its first military spy satellite on Nov. 21, transmitting photos of the White House, the Pentagon, U.S. military bases and "target regions" in South Korea.
The move raised regional tensions and sparked fresh sanctions from the U.S., Australia, Japan and South Korea. Pyongyang has not released any imagery from the satellite so far, leaving analysts and foreign governments to debate how capable the new satellite actually is.
In a separate article carried by KCNA on Sunday, an unidentified North Korean military commentator said the South is blamed for the breakdown of their military confidence-building agreement, justifying its spy satellite launch as what other countries also do.
The article also argued that South Korea's own, first military reconnaissance launch this month proved to be self-contradictory.
South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) Chairman Kim Myung-soo on Saturday made a visit to frontline units near the border with the North to assess readiness posture amid heightened tensions, the JCS said on Sunday.
North Korean soldiers brought back heavy weapons into the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) border and restored guard posts that the two countries had demolished, after Seoul suspended part of a 2018 military accord between the two Koreas in a protest over Pyongyang's launch of the spy satellite.
On Friday, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carried South Korea's first spy satellite into orbit from California's Vandenberg Space Force Base. South Korea has contracted with the American company to launch a total of five spy satellites by 2025 in an effort to accelerate its goal of having 24-hour watch over the Korean peninsula.
(Reporting by Jihoon Lee in Seoul; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Lincoln Feast.)