North and South Korea are both aiming to launch their first-ever spy satellites by the end of November. This comes amidst heightened tensions over military activities in the region. Japan received notification from Pyongyang that North Korea plans to launch its system sometime between Thursday and December 1. This follows two failed attempts earlier this year. South Korea, on the other hand, is set to launch its satellite on November 30 via a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
South Korea is receiving assistance from the United States in its bid to build a network of spy satellites. The country plans to launch four more systems by 2025. The announcements from North Korea have raised concerns among Japan, the US, and South Korea. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida condemned North Korea’s move, stating that the use of ballistic missile technology for satellite launches violates UN security council resolutions and greatly affects national security. Japan’s air defense systems will be put on alert as a precautionary measure.
Despite international pressure, it is unlikely that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will be deterred. He has shown increased determination to enter a space race with South Korea. In September, Kim Jong-un visited Russia’s advanced space center and received support from President Vladimir Putin in developing North Korea’s space capabilities. A senior researcher from North Korea’s National Aerospace Technology Administration also reaffirmed North Korea’s right to develop its own network of spy satellites and criticized South Korea’s planned launches as dangerous military provocations.
While analysts suggest that North Korea’s satellite systems may not provide military intelligence, each launch still poses a risk to regional security. In contrast, South Korea’s satellite is expected to be highly sophisticated and serve multiple roles, including early warning capabilities, military targeting, damage assessment, and secure communications. South Korea has been planning for the development of its satellite network since 2020, recognizing the need for constant surveillance of its northern rival.