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Japan launches spy satellite

Japan's H-2A rocket carrying the satellite lifts off from a space centre on the southern island of Tanegashima.

TOKYO (AP/PTI): Japan launched its fifth spy satellite Saturday in a bid to boost its ability to independently gather intelligence, the government said.

The domestically developed H-2A rocket carrying the $ 565 million satellite lifted off from a space centre on the southern island of Tanegashima, said Hisashi Michigami, an official at the Cabinet Office.

"The satellite will gather intelligence for our defence and diplomatic purposes," Michigami said.

Japan has long relied on the United States for intelligence. But it launched its first pair of spy satellites in 2003, prompted by concerns over North Korea's missile programme.

North Korea shocked Tokyo in 1998 when it test-fired a missile over Japan. Since then, Japan has launched spy satellites primarily to watch developments in North Korea.

In April this year, a North Korean long-range rocket flew over Japan and landed in the Pacific Ocean.

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