North Korea officially begins spy satellite program after launch of Malligyong-1

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un oversees the launch of a new-type carrier rocket Chollima-1 carrying the reconnaissance satellite Malligyong-1 at the Sohae Satellite Launching Ground in North Korea on November 21. Photo by KCNA/EPA-EFE
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Dec. 3 (UPI) -- North Korea has officially begun its spy satellite program after what it called a successful launch of the Malligyong-1 satellite last month.

A reconnaissance satellite operation office organized at the Pyongyang General Control Center of the National Aerospace Technology Administration officially started operations on Saturday.

"The reconnaissance satellite operation office of the NATA Pyongyang General Control Center will perform its mission as an independent military intelligence organization," North Korean officials said in a statement carried by the KCNA.

"The information acquired through the discharge of the mission shall be reported to the relevant permanent executive department of the Central Military Commission of the Workers' Party of Korea and, on instructions, will be offered to major units regarded as war deterrence of the state and the General Reconnaissance Bureau of the Korean People's Army."

The Malligyong-1 reconnaissance satellite successfully entered into Sun-synchronous orbit on November 21, North Korean officials said in a statement.

The Korean Central News Agency, the country's propaganda arm, said Thursday that the satellite has successfully transmitted new photos taken of the San Diego Naval Base in California as well as the Kadena Air Force Base in Japan and of the Suez Canal in Egypt.

Last week, it was reported that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has also reviewed photos of locations including Naval Station Norfolk, the Newport News shipyard in Virginia, the White House and the Pentagon. And, Kim has reviewed pictures of an American carrier as well as military targets in South Korea, with which it is still technically at war, that host U.S. military facilities.

"As we have already stated, the launch of a reconnaissance satellite by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea is an essential step in the construction of the country's defense forces," North Korea's Foreign Ministry said in a statement Saturday.

North Korean officials claimed the feat "marks a new stage" in the military activities of its armed forces, which will "firmly safeguard the safety of the country" and is an "important measure to contribute to improving the security environment in the Korean Peninsula region."

"Nevertheless, the U.S. unfairly interfered with the DPRK's rightful and legitimate exercise of its sovereign rights and engaged in sovereignty-violating and hostile acts," North Korea said, decrying new sanctions levied against the country by the United States with Japan, South Korea and Australia.

North Korea said that the actions of the United States and its "minions" are a "flagrant violation of international legal norms," including the charter of the United Nations, and are a "sedative" to soothe the anxiety of the "increasingly tilted U.S.-led hegemonic order."

"In today's world, where the United States is seen as an injustice and evil, U.S. condemnation and sanctions only serve as lip service to the legitimacy of the DPRK's chosen course and as an expression of our national strength," North Korea said in its statement Saturday.

North Korea asserted that it has a right under international law "to freely enjoy its right to develop space, which is enjoyed by all U.N. member states."