South Korea’s military has issued a warning to North Korea, urging them to halt their planned spy satellite launch. The military has suggested that if the launch goes ahead, Seoul may suspend the inter-Korean peace deal and resume frontline aerial surveillance as a retaliatory measure. North Korea had previously attempted to put a military spy satellite into orbit twice this year, with both attempts being unsuccessful. However, South Korean officials believe that a launch could take place in the coming days, as North Korea is allegedly receiving technological assistance from Russia.
Senior South Korean military officer Kang Hopil has called on North Korea to cancel its launch immediately. He stated that if North Korea proceeds despite the warning, the South Korean military will take necessary measures to protect its people. South Korean Defense Minister Shin Wonsik revealed that the launch is expected to happen later this month, and both South Korean and U.S. authorities are closely monitoring the situation.
The United Nations Security Council prohibits any satellite launches by North Korea, viewing them as disguised missile technology tests. Kang has stated that while North Korea requires a spy satellite for monitoring purposes, the launch also serves the purpose of enhancing its long-range missile program. South Korea has accused North Korea of receiving Russian technologies in exchange for conventional arms support during Russia’s war in Ukraine. Although both nations have denied these allegations, they have been actively seeking to expand bilateral cooperation.
Kang has not explicitly mentioned the retaliatory steps that South Korea may take if North Korea proceeds with the launch. However, he strongly suggested that the steps could involve suspending the 2018 inter-Korean military agreements, which require both countries to cease aerial surveillance activities and live-firing drills along the border.
Despite these agreements, North Korea has repeatedly violated them, including the destruction of an unoccupied inter-Korean liaison office, flying drones into South Korean territory, and conducting firing drills along the maritime border. These violations have caused problems for the South Korean military’s readiness. The 2018 military agreement, established during a period of improved relations between South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, created buffer zones and no-fly zones to prevent accidental clashes.
Relations between the two countries have become strained since the breakdown of nuclear diplomacy between Kim Jong Un and former U.S. President Donald Trump in 2019. North Korea has since focused on expanding its nuclear arsenal, leading South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol to increase military drills with the United States.