Ex-ASDF chief: Purported N.Korea satellite apparently for monitoring US bases

A former chief of staff of Japan's Air Self-Defense Force says that what North Korea claims to be a military spy satellite is apparently intended for monitoring US bases. Last year, the North said it successfully launched the object.

Kataoka Haruhiko, who now works at the Japan Institute for Space and Security, said the object's orbit is almost the same as those of Japan's information-gathering satellites.

Kataoka suggested that it is an optical satellite designed to capture images of Earth's surface. But he said that without further analysis, it is not possible to know how clear the images are and whether the satellite has successfully been sending them to Earth.

Kataoka also referred to North Korea's announcement that it plans to launch three more military reconnaissance satellites this year.

He said the North will probably launch optical satellites as planned and is expected to conduct more launches in the next fiscal year and beyond, given its increasing development capabilities.

Kataoka added that the lack of sunlight at night and cloud cover can affect the observation capabilities of optical satellites. He stressed the need to monitor North Korea, including possible launches of radar-equipped satellites.