South Korea’s military has issued a warning to North Korea, advising them not to proceed with their planned spy satellite launch. South Korea has suggested that if the launch goes ahead, they may suspend an inter-Korean agreement aimed at reducing tensions and resume front-line aerial surveillance. North Korea has made two unsuccessful attempts to put a military spy satellite into orbit earlier this year, but it is believed that with Russian assistance, they may attempt another launch in the coming days.
South Korean Defense Minister Shin Wonsik has stated that the launch is expected to take place later this month, and both South Korean and U.S. authorities are closely monitoring North Korea’s actions. The United Nations Security Council prohibits satellite launches by North Korea as they view them as disguised tests of missile technology. South Korea believes that North Korea’s spy satellite launch is an attempt to not only enhance their monitoring capabilities but also strengthen their long-range missile program.
There have been claims that North Korea is seeking Russian technologies to improve its nuclear and military capabilities, and in return, supply conventional arms to support Russia’s war in Ukraine. Both Russia and North Korea have denied these allegations, but tensions between the two nations and the United States have led to increased cooperation in recent months.
South Korea has not stated explicitly what actions they will take if North Korea proceeds with the launch. However, a senior South Korean military officer has indicated that retaliatory steps could include a resumption of aerial surveillance activities and live-fire drills at border areas. These actions would be in breach of the 2018 inter-Korean military agreement on easing front-line tensions.
The military deal, which was reached during a period of rapprochement between South Korea’s Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong Un, aimed to create buffer and no-fly zones along the border and remove guard posts and land mines. However, the breakdown of nuclear diplomacy between Kim and former U.S. President Donald Trump strained relations between the two Koreas. As a result, North Korea has been expanding its nuclear arsenal, leading South Korea’s current president, Yoon Suk Yeol, to increase military drills with the United States.
The suspension of the 2018 agreement could potentially provide North Korea with an excuse to provoke further tensions. Last week, North Korea claimed to have successfully tested solid-fuel engines for a new intermediate-range ballistic missile, a move intended to strengthen their arsenal of mobile and harder-to-detect missiles targeting the United States and its allies.