Kim Jong Un, the supreme leader of North Korea, said that the North’s first military reconnaissance satellite launch will be carried out in the coming days, according to a report from Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), one of the North’s main state-controlled media, on Wednesday.
During an inspection of the National Aerospace Development Administration (NADA) on April 18, Kim “set forth the militant task to organize a non-permanent satellite-launching preparatory committee to make sure that the military reconnaissance satellite No. 1 completed as of April will be launched at the planned date, speed up its final preparations and firmly establish the satellite intelligence-gathering capability by deploying several reconnaissance satellites on different orbits in succession in the future,” KCNA reported.
It is unclear when the North will launch a military reconnaissance satellite, but the “planned date” seems imminent, based on KCNA’s report.
Last year, North Korea vowed to finish preparations to launch its first military reconnaissance satellite by April amid growing tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
The pace of North Korea’s missile tests in 2023 seems low compared to its unprecedented number of missile launches last year. Based on Pyongyang’s remarks and pledges on its nuclear development, however, more powerful and advanced nuclear programs will likely be showcased moving forward. Just last week, North Korea launched a new type of solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), dubbed the Hwasong-18, indicating it is bolstering efforts to pose a direct threat to the security of the United States.
Speaking at the NADA, Kim “recalled that in the light of the present situation, in which the U.S. imperialists are deploying nuclear carriers, nuclear strategic bombers and other huge strategic assets of various missions on a permanent basis on the Korean peninsula … the Eighth Congress of the WPK specified it as the most important and prerequisite task for building up the national defense capabilities of the country to have access to the space reconnaissance capability for securing real-time information about the hostile forces’ military scenario and moves in the five-point major goals for developing the national defense capabilities,” KCNA said.
The main motivation for North Korea’s nuclear development is the presence of about 28,500 U.S. forces in the South’s territory and its extensive joint military drills with the South Korean military. Emphasizing the necessity of improving its self-defense capabilities against the strengthened South Korea-U.S. alliance, Kim legitimized his military’s initiative to develop a military reconnaissance satellite – which is essential to fulfilling the North’s five-year plan to modernize its military and defense system.
“As the U.S. and south Korea are scheming to further tighten their military posture against the DPRK under the pretext of ‘offer of extended deterrence’ and ‘strengthened south Korea-U.S. alliance,’ as evidenced by their most hostile rhetoric and explicit action this year, it is quite natural for the DPRK to develop its military deterrence strong enough to cope with the serious security environment at present and in the future, he [Kim] said, adding that possessing and operating military reconnaissance means is the most crucial primary task for increasing the military effectiveness and utility of different war deterrence means of the DPRK in doing so,” KCNA said. (DPRK is an acronym of the North’s official name: Democratic People’s Republic of Korea)
The G-7 foreign ministers recently held a meeting in Japan, where they condemned North Korea’s series of ballistic missile launches. In light of the North’s growing nuclear capabilities, Washington sees Pyongyang’s ICBMs as a nuclear threat capable of reaching its mainland. However, as China and Russia, permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, are pointing to the United States as the main actor destabilizing the region and provoking the North’s missile launches, the international community has failed to adopt a united message and action since 2017. Also, considering China’s vested influence on North Korea’s economy, no substantive measure to punish the North’s illicit ballistic missile tests will likely come up amid the intensified rivalry between Washington and Beijing.
Marking the country’s April 19 Revolution, South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol said on Wednesday that there is still room for dialogue with North Korea but ruled out the possibility of holding a surprise inter-Korean summit. Yoon’s main policy on North Korea, the “audacious initiative,” was harshly denounced by Kim Yo Jong, the powerful sister of Kim Jong Un and the main voice on inter-Korean relations, and Pyongyang already expressed its firm stance not to engage in any dialogue with the Yoon administration due to his aggressive remarks over the North.