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Security

Japan launches new spy satellite

Japan has launched two satellites into outer space, one of which is meant to improve the country's intelligence-gathering capabilites. This comes a month after North Korea tested a long-range missile.

The two satellites were launched into space from Japan's southern island of Tanegashima at 1:40 pm on Sunday local time, according to public broadcaster NHK. The H-IIA rocket released the two satellites into orbit at an altitude of several hundred kilometers.

One of the satellites, which is equipped with a radar system, is to join up with a number of others already in operation to complete a surveillance system that Japan established in the 1990s in response to a 1998 North Korean missile launch.

The system is said to give Tokyo the capability of monitoring any location in the world at least once a day. It is said to be able to detect objects on the ground that are as small as one square meter (10.76 square feet) – even at night and through cloud cover.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency said the other satellite launched on Sunday featured experimental optical technology.

Newly elected Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe hailed the successful test as an enhancement of "the country's national security and crisis management."

North Korea launched two long-range missiles last year, including one in December, which flew over Japan's southern Okinawa islands. The ballistic missile launches were illegal under United Nations sanctions trigged by its nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009. The UN Security Council responded to the latest launch by tightening sanctions on Pyongyang.

pfd/hc (AFP, AP)