• The move came less than two weeks after Pyongyang put a reconnaissance craft into orbit

SEOUL (Agencies): South Korea’s first domestically made military spy satellite was launched on Friday, at a time of heightened tensions with its northern neighbor.

The device, carried by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, was launched from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. It was successfully placed into orbit and is operating normally, the South Korean Defense Ministry said, as cited by Yonhap news agency.

The satellite is capable of detecting objects as small as 30 centimeters (11.8 inches) wide, Yonhap said.

Seoul had until now relied on US commercial and military satellites for high-resolution images. The launch provides the South Korean military with “its own intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities,” a Defense Ministry official was quoted as saying.

The launch occurred less than two weeks after North Korea put its own first spy satellite – Malligyong-1 – into orbit. Pyongyang also reported that its new space asset was functioning normally and claimed it had already photographed the White House, the Pentagon and several US naval bases.

Pyongyang’s state-run KCNA news agency released a statement on Saturday, warning the US that any “hostility” toward the satellite would be treated as “a declaration of war.”

Washington condemned North Korea’s launch, arguing that it violated the international ban on Pyongyang’s ballistic missile technology. The US, Australia, Japan and South Korea imposed new sanctions on North Korea this week, citing “illicit and destabilizing activities.”

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