North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has returned from a visit to Russia with pledges of assistance for his country’s space program. During his meeting with President Vladimir Putin, options for cooperation were presented, including assistance in building satellites and launching them on Russian rockets.
North Korea has attempted to put satellites into orbit seven times in the past 25 years, with limited success. The assistance from Russia could help North Korea overcome these challenges and enable them to have their own satellites to monitor military movements in the region.
Satellites play a crucial role in modern military operations and intelligence gathering. Improving their ability to leverage space-based sensors and data aligns with North Korea’s modernization of its strategic and tactical forces. Additionally, Russian aid could help North Korea develop its domestic launch capabilities.
The technology and expertise from Russia could also enhance the performance of North Korean satellites. South Korea previously salvaged a failed satellite and determined that its technology had little military value. With access to Russian assets, North Korea’s satellite designs could evolve more rapidly.
In exchange for Russian assistance, North Korea could provide munitions for Putin’s war in Ukraine. However, any potential arms deal would be in violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions that prohibit North Korea from conducting ballistic missile tests. The US and its partners have warned against the use of North Korea’s space program technology for advancing ballistic missiles.
Despite these concerns, North Korea and Russia may argue that cooperation on civilian space programs does not violate international agreements. Kim Jong Un expressed admiration for Russia’s achievements in space, calling it the “glory of Russia.”
Overall, this collaboration between North Korea and Russia could have significant implications for North Korea’s space program and intelligence capabilities.