North Korea could try to put a satellite into orbit within the next week or so, a South Korean official said, as Seoul warned Pyongyang to halt a rocket launch it sees violating UN Security Council resolutions.
Kang Ho-pil, the chief director of operations at South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Pyongyang “to immediately stop” preparations for another launch after two previous efforts failed.
“If North Korea goes ahead with the military spy satellite launch despite our warning, our military will come up with necessary measures to protect the lives and safety of our people,” he was quoted as saying by Yonhap News Agency on Monday. He did not elaborate on what measures South Korea had in mind.
The North Korean launch could come before South Korea’s planned launch on November 30 of its first home-grown spy satellite, Defense Minister Shin Won-sik said on a KBS television program Sunday. The South Korean satellite is set to be fired from a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California, he said.
While officials in Seoul have said they believe a North Korean spy satellite would be rudimentary at best, it could help Pyongyang refine its target lists as it rolls out new missiles designed to deliver nuclear strikes in South Korea and Japan. Those nations host the bulk of the US’s military personnel in the region.
North Korea’s first attempt this year to put a spy satellite in orbit took place on May 31 and the rocket failed a few minutes into flight when the second stage engine did not ignite. South Korea salvaged the wreckage from international waters in the Yellow Sea, giving it a rare look at North Korean rocket technology.
North Korea also tried and failed to put a spy satellite into orbit on August 24. The state’s official media said the rocket had trouble with its third stage.
Leader Kim Jong Un then made a rare trip abroad to Russia for talks in September with President Vladimir Putin, who pledged to help North Korea with its space program.
The US has for months accused Kim’s regime of supplying weapons to help Putin in his war on Ukraine. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said during a visit to Seoul this month that Russia is providing technology to help North Korea with its military program.
North Korea is barred by UN Security Council resolutions from conducting ballistic missile tests. The US and its partners have warned that technology derived from North Korea’s space program could be used to advance its ballistic missiles and warned any help Putin offers Kim would violate measures that Russia had voted to approve.
North Korea and Russia have denied the US accusations of arms transfers. On Monday, a North Korean official blasted Japan’s planned purchase of Tomahawk cruise missiles from the US. Tokyo intends to use the missiles to boost its countermeasures against Pyongyang’s military and address other regional security threats.
A Ministry of National Defense official was cited by the Korean Central News Agency as saying that the more profits the US made with such weapons deals, the more its security will suffer.