March 11, 2022 09:23
North Korea hopes it will soon be able to launch its own surveillance satellites to spy on South Korea and the U.S.
During a recent visit to the National Aerospace Development Administration, leader Kim Jong-un pledged to put several "military reconnaissance satellites" into orbit within five years, the official Rodong Sinmun reported on Thursday.
But the technology for a space rocket that takes a satellite into orbit and an intercontinental ballistic missile is more or less the same, so one could be camouflage for the other. That would mean Kim is scrapping what remains of a moratorium declared in 2018 on long-range missile tests.
"This urgent project is the supreme revolutionary task, a political and military priority task..." Kim added.
The North recently fired two mid-range ballistic missiles and said they were part of the project to develop reconnaissance satellites.
The first announcement hinting at the abandonment of the moratorium came in January, when Kim said certain "trust-building measures" would have to be revised.
"In January, North Korea began laying the groundwork for an increase in tensions that could include ICBM or possibly a nuclear test this year -- actions that Pyongyang has not taken since 2017," said the U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which controls 17 intelligence agencies, in its annual Worldwide Threat Assessment report on Monday.
"Technically speaking, there's no big difference between a satellite rocket and an ICBM," said Yoo Sung-ok, a former chief of the Institute for National Security Strategy. "It seems likely that the North will attempt to prove its atmospheric re-entry technology by testing a new ICBM that it has unveiled during a military parade."
The first launch could happen in the next couple of months. "Kim Jong-un has launched a strategic provocation with the inauguration of every new president in South Korea since he came into power in 2012," said Yoo Dong-ryul, the chief of the Korea Institute of Liberal Democracy.
President-elect Yoon Seok-youl is to be inaugurated in May.
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