South Korea’s military has issued a stern warning to North Korea, urging it to abandon its plans of launching a spy satellite. The warning came with a suggestion that Seoul might suspend an inter-Korean agreement aimed at reducing tensions and resume front-line aerial surveillance in response.
North Korea had previously failed in its first two attempts to put a military spy satellite into orbit earlier this year. However, South Korean officials believe that a launch could happen in the coming days, citing Russian technology assistance as possible support for North Korea’s satellite program.
In response, senior South Korean military officer Kang Hopil stated in a televised statement that necessary measures would be taken to protect the lives and safety of the people if North Korea proceeds with the satellite launch despite the warning. South Korean Defense Minister Shin Wonsik confirmed that the launch was expected later this month and that both South Korean and U.S. authorities were closely monitoring North Korea’s actions.
The United Nations Security Council has banned any satellite launches by North Korea, viewing them as disguised tests of its missile technology. South Korean military officer Kang stated that while North Korea may seek a spy satellite for monitoring South Korea, their launch is also aimed at strengthening their long-range missile program.
Furthermore, foreign governments and experts suggest that North Korea is seeking Russian technologies to enhance its military capabilities in exchange for supplying conventional arms to support Russia’s activities in Ukraine. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s visit to Russia in September further indicated the growing cooperation between the two nations, especially in rocket technology.
To respond to a potential third launch by North Korea, South Korea is considering a range of retaliatory steps. These may include the resumption of aerial surveillance activities and live-fire drills at border areas, both in violation of the 2018 inter-Korean military agreement on easing tensions. Senior military officer Kang emphasized that North Korea has already violated the agreement multiple times, citing incidents such as the destruction of an inter-Korean liaison office, drone incursions into South Korea, and live-fire drills along the maritime boundary.
The 2018 agreement had created buffer zones and no-fly zones along the border, as well as the removal of front-line guard posts and landmines. However, the breakdown of nuclear diplomacy between North Korea and the United States led to strained relations and a focus by North Korea on expanding its nuclear arsenal. South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol has consequently increased military drills with the United States.
Despite concerns that suspending the 2018 agreement would provide North Korea with an excuse for provocations, South Korea is considering taking action to protect its security interests. North Korea’s recent announcement of the successful testing of solid-fuel engines for intermediate-range ballistic missiles further raises tensions in the region, as it adds a new weapon system to its arsenal aimed at the United States and its allies.