SEOUL, May 17 (AP) North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspected a completed military spy satellite during a visit to the country’s aerospace agency, which is expected to launch soon, saying space-based reconnaissance is crucial to countering The US is critical and South Korea.
North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency said on Wednesday that Kim Jong-un had approved an unspecified “future action plan” during his visit on Tuesday to prepare for the satellite launch. North Korea has not revealed a target date for the launch, which some analysts say could be within the next few weeks.
The launch will use long-range missile technology banned by past U.N. Security Council resolutions, although previous missile and rocket tests have demonstrated North Korea’s ability to send satellites into space.
However, there are more questions about the satellite’s capabilities. Some South Korean analysts said the satellite, shown in North Korean state media photos, appeared too small and crudely designed to support high-resolution imagery. Photos of past missile launches released by North Korean media are low-resolution.
Photos of Tuesday’s visit published by the Rodong Sinmun newspaper showed Kim and his daughter, wearing white lab coats, talking to scientists near what appeared to be a major part of a satellite. The newspaper did not point to the object, which was surrounded by a circle of red tape.
The visit, Kim’s first public appearance in about a month, follows his visit to the aerospace center on April 18, when state media announced that the satellite had been built.
Kim Jong-un said acquiring a spy satellite was crucial to his efforts to strengthen the country’s defense as “the U.S. imperialists and (South) Korean puppet villains escalate their confrontational actions against North Korea,” KCNA said.
He was apparently referring to the expansion of joint U.S.-South Korea military exercises and discussions among allies to strengthen their nuclear deterrence strategy in response to threats from North Korea, which has tested about 100 missiles since early 2022.
The next step in North Korea’s launch preparations, or what state media refers to as a “future action plan,” could be to mount the satellite on what could be a three-stage space rocket, said Kim Dong-yub, a professor at North Korea University in Seoul.
Depending on North Korea’s preparations, the professor said the launch could take place as early as mid-June, though Pyongyang could also time the launch for major national anniversaries in July, September or October.
The spy satellite is one of a series of advanced weapons systems Kim has vowed to develop. Other items on his wish list include solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missiles, nuclear-powered submarines, hypersonic missiles and multiple warhead missiles.
North Korea has tested some of these weapons in recent months, including last month’s first flight test of a solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile, but experts say North Korea may need more time and technological breakthroughs to make the systems functional.
In response to North Korea’s planned launch of a military spy satellite, Japan’s military last month ordered troops to activate missile interceptors ready to shoot down fragments of the satellite that could fall on Japanese soil. (Associated Press)
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