North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visited Russia’s advanced space launch center, where President Vladimir Putin promised to support Pyongyang in building satellites. This unprecedented visit comes as North Korea aims to successfully launch its first spy satellite into orbit after two failed attempts earlier this year.
Since 1998, North Korea has launched six satellites, with two appearing to have been successfully placed in orbit. In 2015, a senior North Korean space official expressed the country’s interest in developing peaceful cooperation with Russia in outer space activities.
North Korea’s most recent successful satellite launch took place in 2016. While international observers stated that the satellite seemed to be under control, there was ongoing debate about its transmission capabilities. During a party congress in January 2021, Kim revealed plans to develop military reconnaissance satellites.
The Chollima-1 is believed to be a new design that potentially utilizes dual-nozzle liquid-fuelled engines developed for North Korea’s Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). South Korea has recovered wreckage from the Chollima-1, including parts of a satellite. Although Seoul claimed that the satellite had limited military value, analysts believe that any functioning satellite in space would provide North Korea with enhanced intelligence capabilities.
The United States and its allies have denounced North Korea’s satellite tests as violations of United Nations Security Council resolutions. These resolutions prohibit cooperation in nuclear science and technology, aerospace and aeronautical engineering, and advanced manufacturing production techniques with North Korea. North Korea has defended its space program and defense activities as its sovereign right.
Putin’s comments prior to meeting Kim at the Vostochny Cosmodrome indicate that Russia may offer assistance to North Korea in satellite construction rather than building the satellites for them. However, experts caution that satellite technology transfers or coordination between Russia and North Korea could potentially contravene international sanctions imposed by the United Nations.
In summary, North Korea’s pursuit of satellites, particularly military reconnaissance satellites, has drawn both criticism and concern from the international community. The potential assistance from Russia in satellite construction raises questions about compliance with UN sanctions.