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May 23, 2024

North Korea Claims Successful Launch of Reconnaissance Satellite, Further Escalating Tensions

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Nov 23, 2023

North Korea announced on Wednesday that it has successfully launched a reconnaissance satellite into orbit, which it says will soon start providing intelligence imagery of military bases and operations around the Korean peninsula. This launch marks North Korea’s third attempt this year to put a satellite into space, in defiance of United Nations sanctions. It represents a concerning escalation in military capabilities and geopolitical tensions in the region.

Launch of Suspected Military Reconnaissance Satellite

State media reported that the satellite reached orbit on Tuesday evening after being launched aboard a three-stage rocket called the Hwanggumsong-17. Known outside North Korea as the Unha-9, analysts believe this rocket is designed to be capable of carrying a nuclear warhead as far as the continental United States.

While North Korea claimed the launch was meant "to verify the working accuracy of photographing system, data transmission system and attitude control devices," the U.S. and its allies strongly condemned it as a thinly veiled test of powerful ICBM technology that further violates U.N. sanctions [1].

The launch prompted emergency alerts in parts of northern Japan, with residents warned to take shelter. No damage resulted as the rocket flew mostly straight up and out toward space rather than on a ballistic missile trajectory. Still, Japanese officials called North Korea’s actions "unacceptable" [2].

Specifications Description
Satellite Name "Malligyong-1"
Rocket Used Unha-9 ICBM variant
Launch Location Northwest North Korea
Achieved Orbit About 500 km altitude
Type Suspected electro-optical military reconnaissance

South Korean military officials said they were scrambling fighter jets and intelligence-gathering assets to strengthen surveillance in response to the provocative launch [3].

Meanwhile, North Korean state media published photographs of leader Kim Jong Un inspecting satellite imagery just provided by the new reconnaissance asset. The images were described as showing Anderson Air Force Base on Guam, a strategically important U.S. territory in the Pacific [4].

Escalating Provocations Amid Stalled Diplomacy

This launch represents North Korea’s most serious provocation since 2017, when the country last tested nuclear devices and long-range missiles. It comes after Pyongyang threatened further escalation if the U.S. and its allies continued joint military exercises in the region. Those war games were seen by North Korea as rehearsal for invasion.

For weeks North Korea had been signaling plans to conduct a satellite launch sometime between November 22-December 1. Japan and South Korea warned such a launch would violate U.N. sanctions imposed on North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs [5].

Those sanctions essentially ban North Korea from developing or acquiring nuclear weapons, ballistic missiles, and associated technologies – including satellites and their rocket boosters.

But talks aimed at denuclearizing North Korea stalled in 2019 after the U.S. rejected North Korean demands for sanctions relief in exchange for partial disarmament steps. With diplomacy at an impasse, North Korea resumed testing missiles in 2020 and may soon resume nuclear testing for the first time since 2017 [6].

What Comes Next

In response to the latest launch, South Korea announced it will indefinitely extend a recent ban on civilian balloon launches toward North Korea. More controversially, it said it will also suspend cooperation on border control matters previously agreed to in a 2018 inter-Korean military agreement [7].

That agreement had established buffer zones along land and sea borders to reduce military tensions. With one party backing out of those tension-reducing measures, fears are rising that border skirmishes and accidental conflict could ensue.

U.S. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby condemned the launch as "destabilizing to regional security" and called it a "clear violation of multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions." The U.S. will also consult allies on potentially new sanctions and defensive measures aimed at impeding North Korea’s rapidly advancing nuclear and missile programs [8].

But China and Russia continue blocking attempts to pass new binding U.N. sanctions on North Korea. With missile cooperation from those two permanent Security Council members, most experts agree North Korea will continue aggressively developing strategic weapons regardless of global condemnation [9].

Kim Jong Un has now declared plans to launch many more satellites for purposes that look primarily military in nature. He stated "we have started the historic cause, a cause of great significance in terms of the future development of our country’s sovereignty and overall national power" [10].

Unless the diplomatic impasse can be overcome, North Korea will likely reach sobering milestones in the next few years. Those include mastering solid-fueled ICBMs that can strike anywhere in the United States and perhaps even demonstrating an ability to arm such missiles with compact nuclear warheads.

References

  1. https://apnews.com/article/north-korea-spy-satellite-aerial-surveillance-c3aa2c541387616ad153a1562aa018da
  2. https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2023/11/22/japan/politics/north-korea-missile-okinawa
  3. https://www.npr.org/2023/11/22/1214614037/south-korea-says-it-boosts-surveillance-after-north-claims-spy-satellite-launch
  4. https://www.barrons.com/amp/news/n-korea-says-received-images-of-us-guam-airbase-from-spy-satellite-kcna-fa764f43
  5. https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/north-korea-flags-plan-launch-satellite-rocket-between-nov-22-dec-1-japan-says-2023-11-20/
  6. https://www.economist.com/asia/2023/11/22/will-north-koreas-new-spy-satellite-make-the-region-safer
  7. https://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/south-korea-to-suspend-part-of-2018-pact-with-north-korea-after-satellite-launch-101700599139371.html
  8. https://www.i24news.tv/en/news/international/asia-pacific/1700597106-u-s-condemns-north-korean-launch-as-brazen-violation-of-un-sanctions
  9. https://www.independent.co.uk/asia/east-asia/noth-korea-third-satellite-launch-un-sanctions-b2450810.html
  10. https://en.yna.co.kr/view/AEN20231121000451315
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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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