- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 24, 2017

TOKYO (AP) - Japan successfully launched its first military communications satellite Tuesday that is designed to upgrade its network in the face of China’s increasingly assertive maritime activity and North Korea’s missile threat.

The Kirameki-2 (kee-RAH-meh-kee 2) satellite was on an H-2A rocket that lifted off from the Tanegashima (tah-neh-GAH-shee-mah) Space Center in southern Japan. The satellite separated from the rocket and entered a designated orbit, the Defense Ministry said.

It is the first of three satellites that will replace three civilian ones currently used by Japan’s military. The new satellites will allow military units to communicate on a high-speed and high-capacity network.

The new satellites are also aimed at stepping up Japan’s emergency response capability in case of natural disaster, China’s maritime activity from southern Japanese waters to the South China Sea, as well as missile threats from North Korea. The satellites are also planned for use for Japanese troops operating overseas as part of international peacekeeping operations, including those in South Sudan and off the Somali coast, Kyodo News reported.

The Kirameki-1 was supposed to be launched in July 2016, but was damaged during transport to a launch pad in French Guiana. It is undergoing repair and now is scheduled for launch in 2018.

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