(ATTN: UPDATES throughout with defense minister's remarks)
SEOUL, June 1 (Yonhap) -- The South Korean military is still in an operation to retrieve a sunken part of a purported North Korean space rocket that appears to be the second stage of the ill-fated vehicle, Seoul's defense chief said Thursday.
Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup made the remarks during a parliamentary session, as the Navy is trying to recover the 15-meter part that currently lies at a depth of 75 meters underwater in the Yellow Sea. The retrieval may take two more days, he said.
The North fired what it claimed to be a satellite-carrying rocket Wednesday morning, but it crashed into the sea due to the abnormal starting of the second-stage engine, the North's state media said, in a rare acknowledgement of such a failure.
"We are continuing to trace the third stage and the payload," Lee told lawmakers, noting the already identified wreckage appears to be the second stage of the rocket.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff has released photos of the identified part, but the part dropped to the sea floor. The naval operation to recover it has faced difficulties due in part to its heavy weight and poor underwater visibility.
Asked if the technology used to build the rocket is identical to that for an intercontinental ballistic missile, the minister said, "Yes."
"The same principle applies to the launch vehicle for a satellite and the missile to carry a warhead," he said.
Lee also gave his assessment that Wednesday's launch took place at a new launching facility built on the west coast.
The first stage appears to be equipped with a liquid-fuel engine, while its satellite is judged to have a 1-meter resolution, Lee noted. A military spy satellite usually has a sub-meter resolution, experts said.
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