North Korea made an apparent third attempt to place a military spy satellite into orbit, according to South Korea’s military. The launch is part of North Korea’s ongoing efforts to build a space-based surveillance system in the midst of tensions with the United States. The United Nations prohibits North Korea from conducting satellite launches, as they are seen as covers for missile technology tests. While it is unclear if the launch was successful, it is expected to face strong condemnation from the United States and its partners.
Japan’s Prime Minister’s Office issued a missile warning for Okinawa in response to the launch, but later announced that the missile had passed into the Pacific Ocean. The Defense Ministry of Japan also confirmed that North Korea had fired a possible ballistic missile. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is known to covet a spy satellite as a key military asset in his efforts to modernize weapons systems. Two previous attempts to launch a spy satellite earlier this year ended in failure due to technical issues.
North Korea and Russia, both increasingly isolated globally, have been strengthening their relationship in recent months. Kim visited President Vladimir Putin in Russia’s Far East, leading to speculation of a weapons deal between the two countries. North Korea is said to be supplying conventional arms to Russia in return for technological assistance in its military programs. While both countries deny these allegations, they raise concerns about violations of UN Security Council resolutions.
The success of the military reconnaissance satellite launch would demonstrate North Korea’s advancement in ICBM capabilities and increase the need for reinforced countermeasures by South Korea and its allies. Since the beginning of 2022, North Korea has conducted approximately 100 missile tests in its pursuit of a reliable arsenal of nuclear weapons targeting the US and its allies.