The satellite that North Korea tried to put into orbit in May was so rudimentary that it could never function as a functioning spy satellite as North Korea wanted, the South Korean military said on Wednesday.

North Korea launched a new rocket, the Collima-1, on May 31, hoping to put its first military reconnaissance satellite, the Malligyong-1, into orbit. The rocket, which triggered alarms and a false evacuation order in Seoul, malfunctioned and crashed into the sea off South Korea’s west coast shortly after launch.

South Korea has sent military aircraft, ships and deep-sea divers to search for debris that would provide clues about the North’s missile and satellite technology.

The South had already salvaged parts of the rocket but confirmed on Wednesday that its military had also salvaged “key components” from the satellite.

After analyzing the debris from the failed rocket launch, experts in South Korea and the United States concluded that the satellite “had absolutely no military use as a reconnaissance satellite,” the South Korean Defense Ministry said in a press release on Wednesday.

In the space industry, rocket failures are common. But North Korea considered its May failure an embarrassment. At a meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party last month, top leaders “bitterly criticized” those responsible for the botched test, according to North Korean state media.

North Korea said it would attempt another satellite launch “in a short time” after dealing with technical issues. Its leader, Kim Jong-un, said placing military spy satellites over the Korean Peninsula was one of his top priorities.

Experts say such satellites would make North Korea’s military more effective and its nuclear arsenal more dangerous. But when the North unveiled photos of Malligyong-1 in May, outside experts said it looked rudimentary compared to satellites launched by more technologically advanced countries.

However, in response to the North’s continued weapons buildup, the United States and South Korea have expanded their joint military exercises in the region.

On Friday, they conducted a combined air force exercise over the Korean Peninsula, involving at least one B-52H strategic bomber. On June 16, the USS Michigan, a nuclear-powered guided missile submarine, made a port call in South Korea, the first such visit since 2017.

When President Biden met his South Korean counterpart, Yoon Suk Yeol, in April, Washington promised Seoul the “regular visibility” of its strategic assets around the Korean Peninsula to highlight its commitment to defend South Korea against North Korean aggression.

On Thursday, the Pentagon press secretary, Air Force Brig. General Pat Ryder told reporters that a US nuclear-capable submarine would visit South Korea “at some point in the future”. When asked if the submarine would carry nuclear weapons, he only confirmed that the submarine would be “nuclear capable”.

If the submarine arrives, it will be the first known visit to South Korea by a nuclear-capable US submarine since 1981.

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