Seoul says North Korea could be preparing spy satellite launch

Seoul says N. Korea could be preparing spy satellite launch
Source: Video Screenshot

South Korea’s military said Friday it had detected signs that North Korea was preparing to launch another military spy satellite, just days before Seoul, Beijing and Tokyo’s top leaders are due to meet for their first summit in nearly five years.

Nuclear-armed North Korea is barred by multiple UN resolutions from tests using ballistic technology, and analysts say there is significant technological overlap between space launch capabilities and the development of ballistic missiles.

Pyongyang successfully put a military spy satellite into orbit last year and has since claimed it is providing images of major US and South Korean military sites.

But South Korea’s Defence Minister Shin Won-sik said in February this year that the North’s satellite, the “Malligyong-1”, appears to be orbiting Earth “without activity.”

On Friday, Seoul said South Korean and US intelligence authorities were “closely monitoring and tracking related trends as circumstances that are presumed to be preparations” for the launch of another “military reconnaissance satellite” have recently been detected.

The suspected preparations were detected in North Korea’s Tongchang-ri county, Seoul said, which is home to the isolated country’s Sohae Satellite Launching Ground.

The site is where the North staged all three of its satellite launches last year.

Only the third launch in November succeeded in placing a satellite into orbit.

Seoul has claimed the North received technical help from Russia for that satellite launch, in return for sending Moscow weapons for use in the war in Ukraine.

South Korea on Friday sanctioned two Russian vessels for “carrying a large quantity of containers between Russia and North Korea transporting military supplies”.

In December last year, Pyongyang vowed to launch three more spy satellites in 2024.

Experts have said putting a working reconnaissance satellite into orbit would improve North Korea’s intelligence-gathering capabilities, particularly over South Korea, and provide crucial data in any military conflict.

Pyongyang this year has declared South Korea its “principal enemy”, jettisoned agencies dedicated to reunification and outreach, and threatened war over “even 0.001 mm” of territorial infringement.

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol will meet Chinese Premier Li Qiang and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in Seoul on Monday, in the countries’ first trilateral summit since 2019.

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