North Korean leader Kim Jong Un vowed to continue building spy satellites, calling this an “essential task,” state-run media said Wednesday, in his first comments after the nuclear-armed country’s latest attempt at orbit ended in a ball of fire.

“Possessing military reconnaissance satellites helps our nation further strengthen self-defense deterrence and protect national sovereignty and security from potential threats ... due to U.S. military actions and various provocative acts,” the North’s official Korean Central News Agency quoted Kim as saying. “We are working on this as a prerequisite and essential task.”

Kim, who made the remarks during a visit to the Academy of Defense Sciences on Tuesday to mark the 60th anniversary of the agency's founding, also delivered a rare admission of failure, saying that the satellite-carrying rocket had self-destructed “due to an abnormality in the first-stage engine.”