South Korea’s military has cautioned North Korea against proceeding with its planned spy satellite launch, stating that it could suspend an inter-Korean agreement to reduce tensions and resume front-line aerial surveillance as a response. This comes after North Korea’s failed attempts to put a military spy satellite into orbit earlier this year, with a delayed third attempt expected to happen in the coming days.
Seoul’s Defense Minister, Shin Wonsik, revealed in an interview that the launch was anticipated to take place later in the month, and both South Korean and United States authorities were closely monitoring Pyongyang’s actions. It is important to note that the United Nations Security Council prohibits any satellite launches by North Korea, as they consider them to be covert tests of missile technology.
South Korean officials believe that North Korea requires the spy satellite to enhance its monitoring of South Korea and to further develop its long-range missile program. Additionally, there are suspicions that North Korea is seeking Russian technologies to enhance its military capabilities by supplying conventional arms to support Russia’s conflict with Ukraine.
Shin stated that with the likely assistance of Russia, North Korea appears to have overcome an unspecified engine problem on a rocket needed for the satellite launch. It is expected that North Korea will carry out the launch before November 30, coinciding with South Korea’s planned launch of its own military spy satellite.
If North Korea proceeds with the launch, South Korea has not explicitly stated what retaliatory measures it will take. However, it strongly hinted that they could include a resumption of aerial surveillance activities and live-fire drills at the border areas, which would be in violation of the 2018 inter-Korean military agreement on easing front-line tensions.
South Korea has accused North Korea of violating the agreement multiple times, citing instances such as the destruction of an inter-Korean liaison office, flying drones into South Korea, and conducting live-fire drills along the maritime boundary. These actions have significantly restricted South Korea’s aerial reconnaissance capabilities and its ability to conduct live-fire drills on border islands.
The 2018 military agreement, reached during a period of détente between the two Koreas, created buffer and no-fly zones along the border, as well as the removal of front-line guard posts and land mines. However, South Korea argues that North Korea’s repeated violations have been detrimental to its military readiness.