South Korea 'watches' North Korea: Launches second spy satellite to track its movements

SEOUL, South Korea.- South Korea has launched its second military spy satellitedays after North Korea reaffirmed its plan to launch several reconnaissance satellites this year.

The two Koreas launched their first spy satellites last year, Pyongyang in November and Seoul in December, amid growing differences. Both said that their satellites would increase their ability to monitor each other and strengthen their missile attack options.

The second South Korean spy satellite was launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Sunday night, which was already Monday morning in Seoul.

The South Korean Defense Ministry said it had confirmed that the satellite had entered orbit and communicated with a ground station after separating from the rocket that had carried it into space.

“With the success of the second military spy satellite launch, our military has acquired additional independent surveillance capability and further strengthened our 'kill chain' capability,” the Defense Ministry spokesperson told reporters. Jeon Ha Gyuin a reference to the military's preemptive missile strike capability.

Under its SpaceX contract, South Korea hoped to launch five spy satellites by 2025. The first launched on December 1 from the US Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

In 2022, South Korea became the 10th nation to successfully launch a satellite with its own technology using a domestically developed rocket, placing what it described as an “observation satellite” into orbit. But experts point out that it is more economical to use a rocket SpaceX to launch the spy satellites, and that South Korea needs more launches to ensure the reliability of its rocket.

North Korea seeks to establish a surveillance network in space

North Korea also wants to establish its own surveillance network from space to respond to what it describes as military threats from the United States and South Korea.

After two failed launches in early 2023, North Korea launched its Malligyong-1 spy satellite into orbit on November 21. Pyongyang has said after its satellite has transmitted aerial images of important locations in the United States and South Korea, including the White House and the Pentagon. But it has not published any of those satellite photos and foreign experts doubt that the North Korean satellite can transmit images that represent a relevant military contribution.

North Korea is scheduled to launch more reconnaissance satellites this year, Pak Kyong Su, vice general responsible for North Korea's National Aerospace Technology Administration, said March 31. At a major political conference in late December, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un promised to launch three more military spy satellites in 2024.

South Korean Defense Minister Shin Wonsik said Monday that Pyongyang will likely conduct its second launch soon to commemorate the April 15 birth of its state's founder, Kim Il Sung, the late grandfather of Kim Jong Un. Shin said it is still possible that the launch could be done later due to technical issues..

The United Nations has banned North Korea from launching a satellite, calling it a covert test of its long-range missile technology. The North Korean satellite launch in November aggravated tensions on the Korean Peninsula, where both sides are taking steps against their 2018 agreement to de-escalate military tensions.

In recent years, North Korea has undertaken a provocative series of missile tests to modernize and expand its weapons arsenals, prompting Washington and Seoul to increase their military exercises. Experts say North Korea likely believes a larger military arsenal would increase its bargaining power in future diplomatic contacts with the United States.