South Korea’s military has issued a warning to North Korea, advising them not to proceed with their planned spy satellite launch. They cautioned that if North Korea goes ahead with the launch, Seoul may suspend an inter-Korean peace deal and reinstate frontline aerial surveillance as a form of retaliation.
Earlier this year, North Korea made two unsuccessful attempts to put a military spy satellite into orbit. They had vowed to make a third attempt in October, but that did not materialize. South Korean officials speculate that the delay may be due to Russian technological assistance, and they suggest that North Korea could conduct a launch in the near future.
Senior South Korean military officer Kang Hopil has urged North Korea to cancel its third launch attempt immediately. He emphasized that if North Korea proceeds despite the warning, South Korea’s military will take necessary measures to protect its people’s safety and well-being.
South Korean Defense Minister Shin Wonsik stated in an interview that the launch is expected to take place later this month. Both South Korean and U.S. authorities are closely monitoring North Korea’s actions. It is important to note that the United Nations Security Council prohibits North Korea from conducting satellite launches, as they view them as disguised missile tests.
North Korea’s need for a spy satellite is not only intended to enhance its monitoring of South Korea but also to reinforce its long-range missile program. South Korea has accused North Korea of receiving Russian technologies in exchange for conventional arms to support Russia’s involvement in the war in Ukraine. Both Russia and North Korea deny these allegations, but their desire to expand bilateral cooperation is evident.
If North Korea proceeds with the launch, South Korea has hinted at potential retaliatory measures. This could include the suspension of the 2018 inter-Korean military agreements, which require both countries to halt aerial surveillance activities and live-firing drills at the tense border. Kang highlighted North Korea’s previous violations of the agreement, such as the destruction of an inter-Korean liaison office, flying drones into South Korean territory, and staging firing drills along the maritime border.
The military deal, established during a period of improved relations between South Korea and North Korea, aimed to create buffer zones and no-fly zones along land and sea boundaries to prevent accidental clashes. However, relations between the two countries have strained since the breakdown of nuclear diplomacy between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and former U.S. President Donald Trump in 2019. Subsequently, North Korea has focused on expanding its nuclear arsenal, leading South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol to increase military drills with the United States.
For more news on the Asia-Pacific region, visit AP’s Asia-Pacific coverage.