The two Koreas are engaged in a veritable space race… On Monday, December 5, it was South Korea that put a satellite into orbit using a new rocket, while the North now has a new spy satellite. Over the course of two weeks, launches doubled and tensions rose with them. Why did the two Koreas suddenly become interested in space? light.
The two Koreas care about space above all to look across the border. The three satellites launched in recent weeks have surveillance and intelligence purposes. North Korea was the first to withdraw a reconnaissance satellite on November 21, known as a spy satellite. Since then, state media have continued to publish, without publishing, photos taken of US or South Korean military installations. In the south, a spy satellite was launched into orbit on Friday under a contract with the American company SpaceX. On Monday, Seoul successfully tested a new South Korean solid-fuel missile, which is less expensive and faster to deploy than a liquid-fuel missile. The launch pad placed a satellite in the name of an agency affiliated with the Ministry of Defense.
Is this why the tone between Seoul and Pyongyang has increased?
Yes, after the launch of the North Korean spy satellite, South Korea suspended part of the 2018 inter-Korean agreement. It included a series of measures to avoid clashes on the border. In response, North Korea announced the termination of the agreement. North Korean soldiers and heavy weapons have redeployed near the 38th parallel, while the military in the South announced that it would resume reconnaissance flights along the DMZ, the demilitarized zone between the two Koreas.
Why did South Korea respond this way? Is North Korea’s satellite launch subject to UN Security Council sanctions?
Yes, in a way, because Pyongyang is banned from using ballistic missile technology. Satellite launches and long-range missile launches work similarly. But North Korea believes it is acting legitimately, and denounces the fact that South Korea is doing exactly the same thing. The regime seeks to show that its space program is completely different from its ballistic program. While North Korea’s repeated missile launches occur without any prior announcement, the regime has alerted the International Maritime Organization or Japan of each launch, for example in order to prevent debris from falling on the ship.
We know that despite the sanctions, the country’s unstable economic situation and its isolation, its ballistic program is at a high level. Is it the same for space, and above all is it superior to that of neighboring South Korea?
So it depends on what. In the field of launching satellites or missiles. Yes, because North Korea has learned from its ballistic missile program and has mobilized enormous resources in this direction. Although Seoul accused the Kremlin of helping Pyongyang put its satellite into orbit, the regime appears to have been able to develop its missile on its own. In addition, its geographical location requires it to have fairly advanced launch pads, because it is necessary to avoid flying over South Korea, China or Japan when a country wants to launch a satellite, which requires a complex trajectory.
South Korea has been slow to invest in this field because it may ask other countries to put these satellites into orbit: Russia, the United States, or Europe. On the other hand, the quality of North Korea’s satellite, although uncertain, is certainly lower than what happens in the South. In general, in the field of electronics or satellite image analysis, Seoul is clearly ahead of its neighbour. On the other hand…to try to catch up, from now on, North Korea risks asking Moscow for help.
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