May 31, 2023
South Korea ‘War-Time’ Alert Was Sent in Error After North Korean Space Launch Transcript
North Korea fired what claims to be a “space launch vehicle”, setting off a “war-time” alert in South Korea and Japan. Read the transcript here.
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Hallie Jackson (00:01):
Some breaking news from our team on the ground in South Korea. Some confusion tonight after apparently with officials in Seoul walking back what was a citywide “wartime” alert. Our producer there says she got a text from the Ministry of Interior and Safety saying that alert was an error message in fact, nine minutes after a citywide message that said “People needed to evacuate ASAP, get the kids, get the senior citizens out first.” It’s after North Korea launched apparently what they call a space launch vehicle that is a launch that was not totally unexpected. There was some thinking that perhaps North Korea would try to do this. Josh Lederman is following the story from London. Let me just lay this out, Josh, because this sort of just has blown up in the last 30 minutes or so. Important context here. People in South Korea and nearby Japan, which also apparently canceled an evacuation alert, have been pretty on edge that North Korea would actually launch something. Tell us what we know happened and then what had to be walked back.
Josh Lederman (00:56):
So this all started about 6:30 in the morning this morning, Seoul time Hallie. When that alert went out, not only by text message, but also according apparently on loudspeakers in South Korea, urging the beginning of this evacuation warning that North Korea had launched this space launch vehicle southward meaning from North Korea toward South Korea. The Japanese also had that brief alert about an evacuation. But only about 10 minutes after the South Koreans put out that notice, did they walk it back saying that there had been an error. And in fact, in the last few minutes or so, we’ve learned from Japan’s military that they believe that what was launched has now potentially crashed or fallen to the ground. They don’t believe that there is currently a threat to their territory or to South Korea itself. There appears to be some debris or possibly the rocket itself that would’ve landed in the Yellow Sea.
But as you point out, this is a time when there was already very high alert because North Korea in the last few days has been announcing their plans to launch their very first military reconnaissance satellite, essentially a spy satellite that would violate UN conventions because it could be used as a cover for a ballistic missile test. And has also raised all kinds of fears about North Korea’s ability to spy on South Korea, on Japan, on other countries in the region, including US military assets that are in Guam, that are in other parts of Asia.
And so the whole region has been concerned about those spy capabilities, but also about what this launch could potentially mean because every time North Korea sends anything up in the air that’s potentially going southward, that could potentially threaten its neighbors South Korea, there is intense concerns about whether something could fall, could potentially injure those people who are in South Korea. Just about 40 miles south of the DMZ is where millions and millions of people live in Seoul, the largest city in South Korea. And so as we speak, Hallie officials both in South Korea and Japan are working to identify what exactly it was that North Korea launched. Was it that military spy satellite they’ve been talking about for days because the North had said they planned to launch that spy satellite sometime between tomorrow and June 11th. So it appears they may have gone early. Officials now trying to figure out exactly what happened this morning. Hallie.
Hallie Jackson (03:22):
Josh Lederman, thank you very much for helping us understand some of that More to come for sure on that story. Appreciate it.