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North Korea give notice of plan to launch spy satellite into orbit

Jon Herskovitz, Bloomberg News on

Published in News & Features

North Korea has given Japan notice that it plans to launch a rocket by June 4 to deploy a satellite, attempting to send its second spy probe into orbit months after its first successful launch.

Officials from Japan, the U.S. and South Korea held talks and called on North Korea to halt the launch, which it says helps Pyongyang’s ballistic missile program and is a violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions, Japan’s Foreign Ministry said Monday in a statement.

North Korea, which claims it has a right to a civilian space program, typically sends notice ahead of launches that point out where rocket stages may fall along a southerly path over the Yellow Sea and waters near the Philippines.

Pyongyang had two failed attempts prior to the launch in November and claims the probe it put into orbit has taken photos of sites including the White House, Pentagon and U.S. military bases in Guam.

South Korea has questioned the operational capability of the probe, which Seoul believes to be rudimentary at best. Kim Jong Un’s regime has said it wants to use spy satellites to keep an eye on U.S. forces in the region, and the probes could help it in its targeting as it steps up its ability to deliver a nuclear strike.

Kim has made placing multiple spy satellites in orbit a priority and went to Russia in September to meet President Vladimir Putin, who pledged to assist Pyongyang with its ambitions for its space program. The U.S. and others have accused Kim of sending massive amounts of munitions to Putin to help in his war on Ukraine in return for aid that is advancing North Korea’s military and economy. Moscow and Pyongyang have denied the claims.

After the summit last year, a large number of Russian experts went to North Korea to help with its spy satellite development, South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reported over the weekend, citing a senior defense official it did not name.

North Korea has conducted multiple rocket engine tests since then, likely to meet the standards of the visiting Russian technicians, Yonhap cited the official as saying. The report did not say how many Russian experts have visited or when exactly any visit took place.


The launch notification comes after China, Japan and South Korea on Sunday began their first three-way summit since 2019 in Seoul. Japan and South Korea have long encouraged China to use its role as the biggest benefactor to Pyongyang to rein in Kim’s atomic ambitions.

South Korea sent its second domestically made spy satellite into orbit on April 8 from a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, enabling it to keep closer tabs on threats from the likes of its nuclear-armed neighbor.

Kim aims to launch three spy satellites in 2024, the official Korean Central News Agency reported after a policy-setting meeting of top officials on the last days of December.

By placing another spy satellite into orbit, the North Korean leader can demonstrate to his top cadres and his people that the country’s military is making great strides keeping an eye on the U.S., reinforcing the message in propaganda that its expansion is essential to prevent an invasion from American forces.

North Korea has tried seven times over the past 25 years to put up a satellite — five of the missions crashed into the the sea and two put something in space, albeit with questionable operating status. The assistance from Russia could help North Korea turn the corner in its space program, weapons experts have said.


(With assistance from Soo-Hyang Choi.)

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