SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea is gearing up for a potential third attempt at launching a reconnaissance satellite, which could prove to be as contentious as the country’s weapons tests.
Previous launches on May 31 and Aug. 24 this year both ended in failure, drawing criticism from Japan and South Korea for violating a U.N. ban on missile development.
Here’s what we know about North Korea’s space ambitions and the controversy surrounding it:
Since 1998, North Korea has launched six satellites, with two reportedly reaching orbit. International observers have debated whether these satellites transmitted any data. Experts note that North Korea has been using a three-stage rocket booster similar to its previous launches, and it has built a new launch pad for a larger rocket.
During a party congress in January 2021, leader Kim Jong Un revealed plans to develop military reconnaissance satellites. The latest Chollima-1 design likely incorporates dual-nozzle liquid-fueled engines developed for Pyongyang’s Hwasong-15 ICBM.
The upcoming launch could involve technical assistance from Russia, as South Korean officials have suggested.
The United States and its allies have condemned North Korea’s satellite tests as violations of U.N. Security Council resolutions. North Korea insists its space program and defense activities are its sovereign right, but the 2016 space launch was seen as a disguised test of missile technology capable of striking the U.S.
Since 2016, North Korea has developed and launched ICBMs and now seeks to place working satellites in space. This move could enhance its intelligence capabilities and demonstrate its space capabilities, potentially reducing tensions, according to analysts.
(Reporting by Josh Smith. Editing by Gerry Doyle)