South Korea’s military has issued a warning to North Korea, urging them to reconsider their planned spy satellite launch. The military has stated that if North Korea proceeds with the launch, South Korea may suspend an inter-Korean agreement aimed at reducing tensions and may resume front-line aerial surveillance activities.
Earlier this year, North Korea made two unsuccessful attempts to put a military spy satellite into orbit. It was reported that the delay in a third attempt, which was supposed to take place in October, may be due to North Korea seeking assistance from Russia. South Korean officials have suggested that the launch could happen in the coming days.
South Korean Defense Minister Shin Wonsik has confirmed that the launch is expected later this month and that both South Korean and U.S. authorities are closely monitoring North Korea’s actions. The United Nations Security Council prohibits any satellite launches by North Korea as it views them as a disguised test of their missile technology.
It is believed that North Korea is aiming to improve its monitoring of South Korea with a spy satellite while also enhancing its long-range missile program. There have been reports that North Korea is seeking Russian technologies in exchange for supplying conventional arms to support Russia’s activities in Ukraine. Both North Korea and Russia have denied any such deal, but their cooperation has been increasing in recent months.
South Korea has hinted at possible retaliatory steps if North Korea proceeds with the launch, including the resumption of aerial surveillance activities and live-fire drills in border areas. The 2018 inter-Korean military agreement aimed at reducing tensions has already been violated by North Korea multiple times, according to South Korean military officer Kang Hopil. Kang has highlighted instances such as the destruction of an unoccupied inter-Korean liaison office, drone incursions, and live-fire drills along the western maritime boundary.
The 2018 agreement created buffer and no-fly zones along the border of North and South Korea and saw the removal of some front-line guard posts and land mines. However, tensions between the two nations have increased following the breakdown of nuclear diplomacy between North Korea’s 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 conservative president, Yoon Suk Yeol, to increase military drills with the United States.
The suspension of the 2018 agreement, if it happens, may provide North Korea with further justification to engage in provocative actions. Last week, North Korea announced the successful testing of solid-fuel engines for a new intermediate-range ballistic missile, which experts suggest is part of their ongoing efforts to develop a more advanced missile system capable of targeting the United States and its allies.