North Korea has once again demonstrated its determination to build a space-based surveillance system amid ongoing tensions with the United States. The launch, while not immediately confirmed as successful, is likely to invite strong condemnation from the US and its partners. The United Nations has banned North Korea from conducting satellite launches due to concerns that they are disguised missile technology tests.
The launch prompted Japan’s Prime Minister’s Office to issue a J-Alert missile warning for Okinawa late on Tuesday. The office urged residents to seek shelter in buildings or underground. However, within 10 minutes, the office announced on social media that the missile had passed into the Pacific Ocean, lifting the earlier advisory. Despite this, residents were still advised to stay away from suspicious objects and report anything to the authorities.
Japan’s Defense Ministry confirmed the launch of a possible ballistic missile without providing further details. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has expressed his desire to modernize the country’s weapons systems in response to what he perceives as escalating US threats. North Korea had previously attempted to launch a spy satellite twice this year, but both attempts failed due to technical issues. A third launch had been promised in October but did not materialize.
It is believed that the delay in the launch was due to North Korea seeking technological assistance from Russia for its spy satellite program. The two countries, both increasingly isolated globally, have been working to expand their relationship. In September, Kim traveled to Russia’s Far East to meet President Vladimir Putin, sparking speculation about a potential weapons deal. While North Korea is said to be supplying conventional arms to Russia, it is seeking help in enhancing its own military and nuclear programs.
The alleged arms transfer deal has been dismissed by both Russia and North Korea as groundless. The White House, however, claimed in October that North Korea had delivered over 1,000 containers of military equipment and munitions to Russia. South Korean defense minister Shin Wonsik said that the number was closer to 3,000 containers.
North Korea sees spy satellites as a way to monitor South Korean and US activities and improve the effectiveness of its nuclear missiles. South Korea, on the other hand, believes that North Korea’s spy satellite program aims to develop more powerful intercontinental ballistic missiles. In response to the launch, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol stated that reinforced countermeasures would be necessary if North Korea succeeded in launching a military reconnaissance satellite.