South Korea’s military has issued a warning to North Korea regarding its planned spy satellite launch. The military has suggested that if North Korea proceeds with the launch, Seoul may suspend an inter-Korean agreement aimed at reducing tensions and potentially resume front-line aerial surveillance.
Earlier this year, North Korea attempted to put a military spy satellite into orbit twice but failed. However, South Korean officials believe that the delay in a third attempt is due to North Korea receiving technological assistance from Russia. It is anticipated that a launch could occur in the coming days.
South Korean Defense Minister Shin Wonsik disclosed in an interview with public broadcaster KBS that the launch was expected later this month. He also mentioned that both South Korean and U.S. authorities are closely monitoring North Korea’s actions.
The United Nations Security Council prohibits North Korea from launching satellites, viewing such acts as disguised missile technology tests. South Korean military officer Kang Hopil stated that while North Korea may require a spy satellite to improve its monitoring capabilities of South Korea, the launch is also aimed at strengthening its long-range missile program.
It has been speculated that North Korea is seeking Russian technologies to enhance its military capabilities in return for providing conventional arms to support Russia’s engagements in Ukraine. In September, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visited Russia and expressed a keen interest in rocket technology.
South Korean military officer Kang Hopil did not explicitly outline the retaliatory measures that South Korea may take if North Korea proceeds with a third launch. However, the steps could potentially include the resumption of aerial surveillance activities and live-fire drills at border areas, which would be in violation of the 2018 inter-Korean military agreement on easing front-line tensions.
Kang highlighted that North Korea has already violated the agreement on multiple occasions, citing the destruction of an inter-Korean liaison office, the flying of drones into South Korea, and live-fire drills along the maritime boundary. These violations have caused significant problems for South Korea’s military readiness.
The military agreement, formed during a period of diplomacy between the leaders of North and South Korea, established buffer and no-fly zones along the border while also removing front-line guard posts and land mines. While proponents of the agreement believed it would prevent accidental clashes, opponents argued that the mutual reduction in military strength would weaken South Korea’s war readiness.
Relations between North and South Korea 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 Korea’s current president, Yoon Suk Yeol, to increase military drills with the United States.
Some critics of President Yoon’s liberal rivals believe that the suspension of the 2018 agreement could provide North Korea with another excuse to engage in provocations.
Last week, North Korea announced the successful testing of solid-fuel engines for a new intermediate-range ballistic missile, further expanding its growing arsenal.