North Korea is preparing to conduct a third attempt to launch a military spy satellite into orbit, according to South Korea’s Defense Minister Shin Won-sik. The launch is expected to take place before South Korea’s own satellite launch on November 30.
The South Korean satellite will be delivered into orbit by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Defense Minister Shin stated that North Korea’s preparations for the launch are underway and could be completed within a week.
South Korea’s National Intelligence Service recently confirmed that North Korea is in the final stages of preparations for a spy satellite launch. The North has received assistance from Russia to resolve its engine problems, and Russian President Vladimir Putin has expressed his intention to help develop North Korea’s satellite program.
The North’s previous attempts to launch a reconnaissance satellite in May and August ended in failure. However, a successful satellite launch by North Korea would demonstrate advances in their rocket technology that could also be applied to missiles.
Under United Nations Security Council resolutions, North Korea is prohibited from using ballistic missile technology in its launches. Defense Minister Shin emphasized that reconnaissance satellites have the potential to enhance North Korea’s surveillance capabilities and undermine the current advantage of other countries, including the United States.
South Korea, which has relied on U.S. high-resolution satellites for intelligence, has been developing its own satellite program to conduct independent satellite reconnaissance. Should North Korea proceed with its third launch attempt, South Korea may consider partially suspending the 2018 inter-Korean military agreement.
Defense Minister Shin has been vocal about the need to address North Korea’s violations of the agreement, including numerous artillery shell firings in the western maritime buffer zone. The estimated number of violations exceeds 3,600 since the agreement was signed.