North Korea could attempt a third spy satellite launch as early as midnight on Wednesday, according to Japanese media reports. Pyongyang has notified Tokyo of a nine-day window for the launch, which ends on 30 November. Japan and South Korea will collaborate to “strongly urge” North Korea to refrain from proceeding with the launch, as it would violate UN resolutions. The Japanese Coast Guard has confirmed that debris from the rocket carrying the satellite is expected to fall in three designated maritime zones – two to the west of the Korean Peninsula and one to the east of the Philippines’ island of Luzon.
South Korea’s chief director of operations at the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Kang Ho-pil, warned that necessary measures would be taken if the launch proceeds. A spy satellite is highly valued by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, as it would enable him to monitor incoming attacks and improve the accuracy of his own. However, the United Nations Security Council has banned Pyongyang from launching satellites due to concerns that they serve as a pretext to test the country’s missile technology.
South Korea previously retrieved debris from North Korea’s first launch in May, determining that the satellite had “no military utility”. After a failed second attempt in August, Pyongyang’s space agency announced plans for another launch in October, which did not materialize. Russian President Vladimir Putin had offered assistance to North Korea in building satellites during a meeting with Kim, although the exact details of this offer remain unclear.
Meanwhile, South Korea has unveiled plans to launch its own spy satellite by the end of November. The satellite will be carried by a rocket from the US company SpaceX. This is the first of five spy satellites that South Korea intends to launch by 2025.