U.S. and South Korea flags wave side by side outside Camp Humphreys, South Korea, March 16, 2020.

U.S. and South Korea flags wave side by side outside Camp Humphreys, South Korea, March 16, 2020. (Stars and Stripes)

CAMP HUMPHREYS, South Korea — The United States is assisting the South Korean military in retrieving wreckage from North Korea’s failed reconnaissance satellite launch, a senior defense official told lawmakers Friday.

Seoul and Washington are working to salvage the space launch vehicle from the Yellow Sea and are analyzing the launch together, Heo Taekeun, chief of South Korea’s National Defense Policy Department, said at a televised hearing of the parliamentary National Defense Committee.

Neither Heo nor National Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup disclosed during the hearing how U.S. forces are contributing to the search. U.S. Forces Korea did not immediately respond to requests for comment by phone and email Monday.

The search for debris continued Monday, National Defense Ministry spokesman Jeon Ha Kyou told reporters that day.

The North Korean Chollima-1 rocket’s third stage failed in flight Thursday, according to the regime’s official Korean Central News Agency. The regime will attempt another launch in October, KCNA reported Friday.

The South’s military radar detected the North’s rocket before it separated into roughly 40 fragments, unnamed South Korean government officials said in a Monday report by newspaper DongA Ilbo.

South Korea’s military has not ruled out that the North may have intentionally destroyed Thursday’s rocket after its failure to thwart Seoul’s analysis of its technological progress, according to the report.

Thursday’s launch was North Korea’s second failed attempt to put a reconnaissance satellite into orbit since May 31. Roughly five weeks after the first attempt, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the military found pieces of the North’s satellite and rocket in the Yellow Sea and described the debris as rudimentary equipment that had “no military utility.”

A spokeswoman for U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres condemned the launch as a violation of Security Council resolutions prohibiting North Korea from using ballistic missile technology.

“The Secretary-General reiterates his call on [North Korea] to cease such acts and to swiftly resume dialogue without preconditions to achieve the goal of sustainable peace and the complete and verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” Florencia Soto Niño said in a news release Thursday.

The launch occurred four days into Ulchi Freedom Shield, a 11-day, large-scale, semiannual military exercise in South Korea by the two allies. U.S. and South Korean military officials described the training as defensive in nature and said it will include around 30 separate air, land and sea drills.

Lee told lawmakers that North Korea’s latest launch has not delayed Ulchi Freedom Shield and that the exercise will be conducted “normally.”

Stars and Stripes reporter Yoo Kyong Chang contributed to this report.

David Choi is based in South Korea and reports on the U.S. military and foreign policy. He served in the U.S. Army and California Army National Guard. He graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles.

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