Korea plans to launch satellites to monitor US, its allies

North Korea‘s leader, Kim Jong Un, said on Thursday that the country will launch a number of spy satellites in the next years to provide real-time information on military moves by the US and its allies.

Kim said “a lot” of military reconnaissance satellites would be deployed into sun-synchronous polar orbit during a five-year plan announced last year when reviewing North Korea’s National Aerospace Development Administration, according to state news agency KCNA.

The purpose of developing and operating the military reconnaissance satellite, he said, is to provide the DPRK’s armed forces with real-time information on military actions against it by US imperialism’s aggression troops and its vassal forces in South Korea, Japan, and the Pacific, according to the news agency.

Experts say North Korea looks to be ready to launch a reconnaissance satellite, which might be as contentious as the nuclear-armed country’s weapons tests due to the fact that both involve banned ballistic missile technology.

On February 27 and March 5, North Korea claims to have conducted two satellite system tests. The tests, according to officials in South Korea, Japan, and the United States, involved the firing of ballistic missiles.

International condemnation followed the launches, and the US military announced on Thursday that it had enhanced monitoring and reconnaissance collecting in the Yellow Sea.

After a “substantial uptick” in North Korean missile testing, the US stated it had increased its ballistic missile defence preparedness.

According to KCNA, Kim defended the satellite programme as a means of safeguarding North Korea’s sovereignty and national interests, exercising its lawful right to self-defense, and enhancing national prestige.

“He emphasised that refining the country’s war preparedness capabilities by upgrading our state’s war deterrent is the supreme revolutionary job, a political and military priority task to which our Party and administration pay the greatest importance,” according to KCNA.

Previous North Korean space launches have been criticised by the US and its allies as violations of UN Security Council resolutions imposing sanctions on North Korea for its nuclear and missile programmes.

North Korea has not tested a nuclear weapon or long-range intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) since 2017, but it has hinted that it may do so again now that discussions with the US have stagnated.

The US Directorate of National Intelligence (DNI) indicated in its annual Worldwide Threat Assessment released this week that its recent flurry of missile launches could be laying the basis for a return to ICBM and nuclear bomb tests this year.

It would be the first time since 2016 that a satellite was sent into space.

According to 38 North, a U.S.-based monitoring group, recent suborbital launches, which presumably used road-mobile medium-range ballistic missiles, appeared to be aimed to “pop the essential components of an imaging reconnaissance satellite up to operational altitudes for a few minutes of testing.”

The group stated that some components, such as satellite stabilisation, imaging payload, and data transmission, may have failed in previous tests and hence required more testing.

“How capable any North Korean imagery satellite would be, the frequency of launches, or how many such satellites might be maintained in orbit at any given time—all critical indicators of the real military value of such satellites—remains to be seen,” added 38 North.

North Korea, on the other hand, obviously regards this capability as having propaganda value and demonstrating its scientific strength and successful leadership, according to the report.

Depending on the type of rocket booster utilised, a launch might contribute to North Korea’s ICBM capacity, according to 38 North.

It might also be a forerunner to other more provocative advancements described by Kim, including as the testing of multiple-warhead missiles, solid-propellant ICBMs, and ICBM-range solid-propellant submarine-launched ballistic missiles, according to the report.

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