North Korea says the latest launches tested the first spy satellite

North Korea said Monday it launched a test satellite in a major final test for the development of its first spy satellite, a key military capability coveted by its leader Kim Jong Un along with other weapons systems. ‘high technology

North Korea’s Central News Agency also released low-resolution black-and-white photos showing a space view of the South Korean capital and Incheon, a city west of Seoul, in an apparent attempt to show that the North is pushing to acquire. a surveillance tool to control your rival.

The rocket carrying the test satellite was launched on Sunday to evaluate the satellite’s photography and data transmission systems, KCNA said.

The country’s National Aerospace Development Administration described the test results as “an important success that has passed the final gateway process of the launch of the reconnaissance satellite.” It said it would complete preparations for its first military reconnaissance satellite by April next year, according to KCNA.

“From the released images, the resolution doesn’t seem to be that impressive for military reconnaissance,” said Soo Kim, a security analyst at the California-based RAND Corporation. “However, I would note that this is likely an ongoing development, so we may see further improvements in North Korea’s military reconnaissance capabilities over time.”

Authorities in South Korea, Japan and the United States said on Sunday they had detected a pair of ballistic missile launches by North Korea from its northwestern Tongchang-ri area, where the launch pad is located of the North satellite. They said the two missiles flew about 500 kilometers (310 miles) at a maximum altitude of 550 kilometers (340 miles) before landing in the waters between the Korean peninsula and Japan.

That meant North Korea likely fired two missiles with different types of cameras — one for black-and-white images and video and the other for color — given that the North’s state media said Sunday’s test involve both types of cameras, said Lee Choon Geun. an honorary researcher at the South Korea Science and Technology Policy Institute.

Analysis of a photo of the launch also showed the missiles were likely a new type of liquid-fueled weapon that can be used for a military purpose and also to send a satellite into orbit, Lee said.

Geon Ha Gyu, a spokesman for South Korea’s defense ministry, told reporters Monday that the South Korean and U.S. assessments that North Korea fired the two medium-range ballistic missiles remain unchanged. He said South Korean and U.S. intelligence authorities were looking into further details of the launches, but declined to elaborate.

A spy satellite was on a wish list of sophisticated military assets that Kim announced during a ruling party meeting early last year, along with multi-warhead missiles, long-range solid-fuel missiles, ballistic missiles nuclear submarines launched underwater and nuclear-powered submarines. Kim has called for modern weapons systems and an expanded nuclear arsenal to pressure the U.S. to abandon its hostile policies toward North Korea, an apparent reference to U.S.-led sanctions and U.S.-South Korean military exercises which North Korea considers an invasion. .rehearsal

Since then, North Korea has taken steps to develop these weapons systems. In February and March, North Korea said it conducted tests to check a camera and data transmission systems that would be used on a spy satellite. In November, it test-fired its longest-range and most developed Hwasong-17 intercontinental ballistic missile, a weapon believed to be designed to carry multiple warheads. Last week, North Korea said it had developed a “high-thrust solid-fuel engine” for use in a new strategic weapon, an apparent reference to a solid-fuel ICBM.

Ankit Panda, an expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said North Korea is likely to make an orbital launch suitable for a reconnaissance satellite probably around April 15, the birthday of the late grandfather and founder of the state of Kim, Kim Il Sung. This day is one of the most important state birthdays in North Korea.

North Korea has put into orbit what it called Earth observation satellites in 2012 and 2016. Many foreign experts say both satellites were tasked with spying on its rivals, although they did not there is evidence that no satellite has relayed any images to North Korea.

According to North Korean state media, one of the cameras tested on Sunday has a resolution of 20 meters (65 feet), which Lee, the expert, said can only recognize relatively large targets such as sailing warships to the ocean and military installations to the south. .Korea.

Lee said North Korea could covertly obtain a more advanced camera that would allow it to monitor US tanks and the deployment of strategic assets in South Korea. He said such a camera would greatly increase North Korea’s surveillance capability.

Earlier this year, North Korea test-fired a record number of missiles, many of them nuclear-capable missiles with variable range to reach the North American continent and its allies South Korea and Japan. He also legislated a law authorizing the preemptive use of nuclear weapons in a wide range of scenarios, causing security concerns in South Korea and elsewhere.

However, North Korea has avoided new UN sanctions for these measures, because the permanent members of the UN Security Council, Russia and China, will not support US attempts to impose them.

“After codifying his country’s nuclear law earlier this year, testing missiles of varying capabilities and making it abundantly clear that he has no interest in diplomacy with the US and South Korea, Kim has essentially paved the way for to nuclearization,” Soo Kim, the analyst. , said “It has given the appearance that the only possible way out of this quagmire is for the international community to meet the conditions set by the regime.”

He said a handful of other high-priority geopolitical concerns involving China and Russia “have allowed Kim to buy time and the grace of the international community to push his plan forward.”

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