North Korea asserted that it has successfully placed a spy satellite into orbit, marking its third launch attempt this year. While the claim has not been independently confirmed, experts believe that the satellite may not be advanced enough for military reconnaissance purposes. The launch has drawn condemnation from the United States and its allies due to the U.N. ban on satellite launches by North Korea, which are viewed as disguised missile tests.
North Korea’s space agency, the National Aerospace Technology Administration, stated that the launch was a legitimate exercise of the country’s self-defense capabilities. It added that the spy satellite would improve North Korea’s war preparedness against potential military threats. The agency revealed that leader Kim Jong Un oversaw the launch and expressed his congratulations to those involved. North Korea plans to launch several more spy satellites in the future to monitor various areas, including South Korea.
The United States strongly condemned North Korea’s actions, saying that it intensifies tensions and destabilizes the region’s security. It emphasized that the launch demonstrates North Korea’s progress in intercontinental ballistic missile technology. In response, South Korea announced its decision to suspend the inter-Korean tension-reduction agreement signed in 2018 and resume aerial surveillance of North Korea. Japan’s Prime Minister also condemned the launch, considering it a serious threat to the safety of its people.
According to assessments by South Korea and Japan, the rocket carrying the satellite flew across the Korean Peninsula before passing over Okinawa, Japan, and heading towards the Pacific Ocean. The Japanese government issued a short-lived missile warning for Okinawa as a precautionary measure.
This successful launch aligns with Kim Jong Un’s aspiration to modernize North Korea’s weapons systems against what he perceives as increasing threats from the United States. Earlier attempts this year had failed due to technical difficulties. It is believed that North Korea received assistance from Russia for its spy satellite launch program, as both countries have been strengthening their relationship in recent months. Speculation regarding a weapons deal between the two nations has arisen, with North Korea potentially supplying conventional arms to Russia in exchange for assistance in improving its military capabilities.
This launch raises several questions regarding the satellite’s capabilities and Russia’s involvement. Nevertheless, it reflects North Korea’s strategy of prioritizing military development over economic progress, exacerbating tensions with South Korea, and expanding ties with Russia and China instead of pursuing diplomacy with the United States.
While North Korea has conducted numerous ballistic missile tests to acquire a viable nuclear arsenal targeting the U.S. and its allies, possessing a rocket that can place a satellite into orbit signifies significant progress towards building a missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol noted that a successful reconnaissance satellite launch would indicate that North Korea’s intercontinental ballistic missile capabilities have reached a higher level.
As a result of the launch, South Korea has initiated efforts to suspend the 2018 agreement with North Korea. The country’s Defense Minister has instructed the military to prepare for potential provocations from North Korea, who could use the suspended agreement as a pretext for aggression.
North Korea, already subjected to 11 rounds of U.N. sanctions, is unlikely to face further sanctions for this launch. China and Russia have previously blocked any Security Council resolutions in response to North Korea’s recent series of provocative activities. North Korea’s criticism of the Security Council echoes its sentiment that the council is heavily influenced by the United States and unfairly singles out the country for satellite launches, while other countries’ satellite operations continue without similar scrutiny.