North Korean leader Kim Jong Un recently made a visit to an aerospace facility where he inspected a military spy satellite that is expected to be launched in the near future. The official Korean Central News Agency reported that Kim stressed the significance of space-based reconnaissance in countering the United States and South Korea. While the exact launch date remains undisclosed, analysts speculate that it could take place within the next few weeks.
This launch is anticipated to employ long-range missile technology, which is prohibited by previous U.N. Security Council resolutions. Nonetheless, North Korea has previously demonstrated its capability to deliver satellites into space through missile and rocket tests. However, there are doubts among South Korean analysts regarding the satellite’s capabilities. State media photos depict a small and crudely designed satellite, potentially limiting its ability to capture high-resolution imagery.
During his visit, Kim was photographed alongside his daughter, both donning white lab coats, engaging in discussions with scientists near a component resembling the primary structure of a satellite. Although the specific details of the object were not disclosed, it was surrounded by red tape. The Korean Central News Agency affirmed that the satellite had undergone rigorous examination and testing to ensure its readiness for the space environment before being loaded onto a rocket.
South Korea’s Foreign Ministry expressed concerns over North Korea’s failure to notify international maritime and telecommunication authorities about its launch plans. The ministry emphasized that such a satellite launch would violate U.N. Security Council resolutions, posing a threat to regional peace and stability. Additionally, the ministry criticized North Korea’s focus on provocative actions while its economy remains in disarray and it faces growing international isolation.
This public appearance by Kim followed his previous visit to the aerospace center in April, marking a month-long hiatus. Kim underscored the acquisition of a spy satellite as crucial for bolstering the country’s defense, citing escalating confrontations by “U.S. imperialists and (South) Korean puppet villains.” The joint military exercises between the United States and South Korea, along with discussions on nuclear deterrence strategies, likely contributed to his remarks. North Korea has conducted approximately 100 missile tests since the start of 2022.
Experts speculate that the next phase of North Korea’s launch preparations involves installing the satellite onto a three-stage space rocket. The launch may occur as early as mid-June, or North Korea might time it to coincide with significant state anniversaries in July, September, or October. Recent commercial satellite images reveal active construction activities at North Korea’s northwest rocket launch facility, including the primary satellite launch pad and potential establishment of a new launch pad near the sea.
In addition to spy satellites, Kim Jong Un aims to develop various advanced weapons systems, including solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missiles, nuclear-powered submarines, hypersonic missiles, and multiwarhead missiles. While North Korea has conducted tests for some of these weapons in recent months, further technological advancements may be required for operational deployment.
Japan’s military has responded to North Korea’s plans by instructing troops to activate missile interceptors and be prepared to shoot down any satellite fragments that may fall on Japanese territory. Previous satellite launches by North Korea in 2012 and 2016 resulted in U.N. Security Council sanctions due to concerns about their intended use. However, recent ballistic tests conducted by North Korea have not resulted in new sanctions, as Russia and China have opposed efforts to increase pressure on Pyongyang, revealing divisions among the Security Council’s permanent members.