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Pentagon suspends August military drills with South Korea

Japan launches H-2A rocket carrying intelligence-gathering satellite

TANEGASHIMA, Japan (Kyodo) -- Japan on Tuesday launched an H-2A rocket carrying a government radar-type intelligence-gathering satellite from the Tanegashima Space Center in southwestern Japan.

    The reconnaissance satellites will be used for such purposes as monitoring military facilities in North Korea and taking images of affected areas at a time of natural disasters.

    The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. launched the H-2A F39 rocket from JAXA's launch site in Kagoshima Prefecture.

    There are two types of reconnaissance satellites -- radar satellites capturing radio waves reflected from the ground and optical satellites taking photos of the ground using a device similar to a digital camera.

    The government currently operates 4 radar satellites and 2 optical ones. It aims to operate 10 satellites in total including the two types and relay satellites.

    The government classifies the images as specially designated secrets and does not reveal them, except for those taken at a time of natural disaster. When it does, the government downgrades the image quality so as not to reveal the image-capturing capacity of the satellites.

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