North Korea has informed Japan that it plans to launch a satellite in the coming days, a move that would violate UN resolutions. This would mark the country’s third attempt to launch a military spy satellite, with its previous two attempts earlier this year ending in failure due to technical issues.
The Japanese coast guard has been notified by North Korea that the satellite launch could take place between Wednesday and November 30. The launch is expected to follow a similar flight path to the previous failed attempts, with three designated maritime zones where debris may fall, including the waters between the Korean Peninsula and China and the Philippine Sea.
South Korea has warned North Korea to cancel the launch or face consequences, suggesting that they would suspend a 2018 inter-Korean agreement to reduce tensions and resume front-line aerial surveillance and live-firing drills in response. UN Security Council resolutions prohibit North Korea from launching satellites as they are believed to be cover for testing missile technology.
North Korea claims that it needs a space-based surveillance system to monitor its rivals, but South Korea argues that these launches are for the purpose of developing its long-range missile program. North Korea has conducted around 100 missile tests since last year in an effort to modernize its arsenal of nuclear-capable weapons targeting the United States and its allies.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has requested coordination with other countries in urging North Korea to cancel the launch. Destroyers carrying Aegis-class radars and PAC-3 missile defense systems have been put on standby in Okinawa in case of any unexpected developments.
Officials from Japan, South Korea, and the US have held trilateral talks to coordinate their response and strongly request North Korea to cancel the launch. The delay in the third attempt, initially scheduled for October, is believed to be due to North Korea receiving Russian technology assistance.
Both North Korea and Russia have denied allegations of a weapon transfer deal. However, Russian President Vladimir Putin has expressed willingness to assist North Korea in building satellites. The international community has raised concerns over any transfer of technology or weapons that would violate UN Security Council resolutions.
In the previous failed attempts, the North Korean rocket lost thrust after the separation of its first and second stages, and an error occurred in the emergency blasting system during the third-stage flight. While South Korea retrieved debris from the first launch and deemed the satellite not advanced enough for military reconnaissance, civilian experts believe it could still be capable of detecting larger targets like warships, giving it potential military usefulness.