Explainer-Why North Korea’s satellite launches are so controversial

By Josh Smith

SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea seems getting ready to launch a reconnaissance satellite tv for pc, a transfer that will show as controversial because the nuclear-armed nation’s weapons checks as a result of they use the identical banned ballistic missile know-how, consultants say.

North Korea carried out a file variety of missile launches in January, and has steered it may resume testing of nuclear weapons or its longest-range intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) for the primary time since 2017.

After a take a look at of satellite-related programs throughout a missile launch on Sunday – the second such take a look at in per week – some consultants assume it’s only a matter of time earlier than North Korea makes an attempt to place a satellite tv for pc in orbit.

Here is what we find out about North Korea’s race for house, and why it is so controversial:


Since 1998 North Korea has launched 5 satellites, of which two appeared to have been efficiently positioned in orbit, together with its final in 2016.

Worldwide observers stated the satellite tv for pc seemed to be below management, however there was lingering debate over whether or not it had despatched any transmissions.

Specialists on the time of the 2016 launch stated that North Korea had used a three-stage rocket booster just like the Unha-3 of earlier launches, however {that a} new launch pad was clearly constructed for a bigger rocket.

A senior official at North Korea’s house company stated after the launch that it deliberate to place extra superior satellites into orbit by 2020 and ultimately “plant the flag of (North Korea) on the moon”. The nation has not launched any extra satellites since then, nevertheless.

Throughout a celebration congress in January 2021, chief Kim Jong Un revealed a want checklist that included creating army reconnaissance satellites.


The US and its allies known as North Korea’s newest checks of satellite tv for pc programs clear violations of United Nations Safety Council resolutions, which prohibit any growth of know-how relevant to North Korea’s ballistic missile programmes.

North Korea has stated its house programme and defence actions are its sovereign proper.

On the time of the 2016 house launch, North Korea had but to fireside an ICBM. The satellite tv for pc launch was condemned by governments in the US and South Korea as a disguised take a look at of ballistic missile know-how able to placing the continental United States.

“The plain concern is that North Korea is testing ballistic missiles and solely pretending to care about satellites,” the U.S.-based monitoring program 38 North stated in a report on the time.

The report stated the Unha-3 system could be ungainly to make use of as a weapon as a result of it required a set launching web site and an extended interval for preparation, and predicted that North Korea wouldn’t develop an operational road-mobile ICBM till a while after 2020.

North Korea launched its first road-mobile ICBM the following 12 months, and later take a look at fired a number of extra.

North Korea has not take a look at fired an ICBM since 2017, however now officers in Washington and Seoul worry a brand new satellite tv for pc launch may assist the nation additional enhance its ballistic missiles.

“Sooner or later, if North Korea launches intercontinental ballistic missiles below the pretext of launching a satellite tv for pc, it’s going to face stronger strain from the worldwide group,” Yoon Suk-yeol, the primary conservative candidate in Wednesday’s presidential election in South Korea, stated in an announcement after the most recent launch.

(Reporting by Josh Smith. Enhancing by Gerry Doyle)

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