SEOUL (Reuters) -North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said space reconnaissance capabilities are crucial for national self defence against enemy threats and the country will never give up the fight to own that ability, state media said on Wednesday.

North Korea's attempt to launch a spy satellite on Monday failed after the first stage booster exploded in flight.

Kim made the remarks during his visit to the country's Academy of Defence Sciences on Tuesday, KCNA news agency said.

"Possessing military reconnaissance satellites is a crucial task to strengthen national self-defence deterrence and protect national sovereignty and security from potential threats ... due to U.S. military acts and provocations," he said.

"The launch of a reconnaissance satellite this time did not accomplish its goal but, comrades, we shall not be disheartened or intimidated by the failure but instead intensify our efforts. Through failure we learn more and advance further."

Despite the fiery failure, experts said the latest satellite launch by the North showcased new strides in the nuclear-armed country's race for space, with the use of a new engine fuelled by liquid oxygen and petroleum.

That design suggests Russia may have provided assistance in building the rocket, one expert said, calling it a "huge leap." North Korea and Russia have dramatically upgraded military cooperation since their leaders' summit last year.

North Korea in November successfully launched a satellite putting it in orbit after two failed attempts earlier last year likely using a launch system it had developed for its intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM).

KCNA said Kim made the speech to the scientists and engineers of the Academy of Defence Sciences on the 60th anniversary of its founding. The academy is a key military agency running the country's missile programme.

Monday's satellite launch was conducted by a separate agency handling an aerospace programme, KCNA said.

Kim assailed South Korea for criticising the satellite launch and said Seoul was "playing with fire" by putting on a show of force and conducting drills involving fighter jets.

Hours after the launch by the North late on Monday, South Korea deployed fighter jets including the F-35 stealth fighter to conduct "attack drills" in a show of force.

South Korean and U.S. warplanes are conducting separate drills this week over the naval hotspot near the two Korea's west sea maritime border.

(Reporting by Jack Kim; Editing by Leslie Adler and Stephen Coates)

By Jack Kim