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North Korea’s First Spy Satellite is Ready for Launch

 North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un has ordered officials to prepare to launch the country’s first military reconnaissance satellite in order to counter the threats from the United States and South Korea, state media KCNA reported on Wednesday.

During his visit to the country’s aerospace agency Tuesday, Kim said that having an operational military reconnaissance satellite is crucial for North Korea to effectively use its nuclear-capable missiles. According to KCNA, Kim made the visit alongside his daughter, believed to be Ju Ae. She has attended numerous events alongside her father so far this year.

It is safe to say that Kim likely hopes to pressure his rivals on issues including joint military drills and international economic sanctions on North Korea. However, previous missile and rocket tests have demonstrated that they can, in fact, send satellites into space, but many experts question whether it has cameras sophisticated enough to use for spying because only low-resolution images were released after past test launches.

But tensions don’t stop there. 

North Korea has said its ongoing run of weapons tests, including its first test launch of a solid-fueled intercontinental ballistic missile designed to strike the U.S. mainland last week, are responses to the joint military exercises between the United States and its regional allies South Korea and Japan. Overall, North Korea has carried out about 100 missile tests since the start of last year, including about 30 this year.

The U.S. and South Korean militaries have been expanding combined drills in response to North Korea’s growing nuclear threats. This week, the Allies launched a 12-day aerial exercise involving some 110 warplanes and staged a one-day naval missile defense exercise with Japan.

Spy satellites are also among an array of major weapons systems that Kim publicly vowed to develop during a major ruling Workers’ Party conference in January 2021. He had also pledged to build solid-propellant ICBMs, nuclear-powered submarines, hypersonic missiles, and multi-warhead missiles. North Korea has since conducted tests of such weapons, but observers say those high-tech weapons are still in the development stages.

Despite North Korea’s claims, recent satellite images of the country’s space launch center show no signs of an imminent launch, said Dave Schmerler, senior research associate at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies in the United States.

“But North Korea could launch this via a road mobile vehicle. So we’re all just waiting to see what they do,” Schmerler said.


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