South and North Korea are racing to launch their first homegrown military spy satellites, with backing from the United States and Russia respectively. South Korea is set to launch its domestically-developed reconnaissance satellite on November 30th, carried by SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket. This launch is part of South Korea’s “425 Project,” which aims to develop and deploy five high-resolution military satellites by 2025 to enhance their intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities. These satellites will play a crucial role in South Korea’s three-axis defense system, particularly in the “Kill Chain” preemptive strike mechanism.
North Korea has also expressed its intentions to launch “a large number of reconnaissance satellites” by 2025 to monitor and identify potential military threats from the United States and its allies. There have been indications that North Korea may attempt a third launch in late November, following their second failed launch in August. However, the exact timing remains uncertain, as North Korea may be facing delays due to improving their carrier rocket’s third-stage engine or seeking specific technological guidance from Russia.
The competition between South and North Korea in launching these reconnaissance satellites is seen as a technology race between the United States and Russia. South Korea aims to strengthen its military capabilities with support from the US, while North Korea, with assistance from Russia, is focused on collecting intelligence on South Korea and the US. It is important to note that any launch involving ballistic missile technology, including satellite launches, would be in violation of UN Security Council resolutions.
The timing of these satellite launches will have significant political implications. If South Korea’s launch succeeds while North Korea faces another setback, it would cause damage to Pyongyang’s reputation. North Korea will need to evaluate whether it is more advantageous to launch their satellite before or after November 30th, the date set for South Korea’s launch. Overall, the race to launch military spy satellites reflects the ongoing military tensions and technological advancements on the Korean Peninsula.