North Korea Is Launching First Spy Satellite, Here’s What You Need To Know

North Korea is preparing to launch a satellite and the world is watching.

By Charlene Badasie | Updated

SpaceX satellites

North Korea is preparing to launch its first spy satellite. The news comes as Kim Jong Un was seen inspecting the country’s military reconnaissance satellite production at the National Aerospace Development Administration on May 16. The visit suggests that the controversial government might soon launch its inaugural space rocket in approximately seven years.

According to Yahoo! News, the device is designed to monitor U.S. forces and their allies in Asia. During his visit, Kim said North Korea’s spy satellite is a response to the “escalating confrontational actions” by the “U.S imperialists and South Korean puppet villains.” No date was given for the launch. But the country could be planning to upstage South Korea before its Nuri space rocket launch on May 24.

Kim Jong Un’s visit to the satellite facility marks his first public outing in 28 days. He was accompanied by his daughter, Ju Ae, who has attended several events with her father this year. His appearance coincides with the upcoming gathering of leaders from the G7 nations in the Japanese city of Hiroshima, and incidentally, the G7 summit is expected to address several topics, including the security concerns raised by North Korea.

The imagery of North Korea’s Sohae Satellite Launching Station indicates that construction is rapidly advancing at several facilities, including the development of a new launch pad. The country’s last space rocket launch was in February 2016, with Kim Jong Un declaring that it had successfully placed an Earth-observation satellite into orbit.

However, many analysts who monitor North Korea are skeptical about the accuracy of those claims and suspect that the satellite never reached orbit. Spy satellites are among a slew of advanced weapons systems Kim Jong Un has vowed to develop, including solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missiles, nuclear-powered submarines, hypersonic missiles, and multi-warhead missiles.

The Interview, a fictionalized take on North Korea

While the United Nations Security Council has prohibited the country from conducting ballistic missile tests, North Korea says it has the right to pursue a civilian space program for launching satellites. The U.S. and its allies have expressed concern that the technology developed for its space program could be used to enhance its ballistic missile capabilities.

North Korean space launches were previously viewed as disguised intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) tests. However, this is no longer the case due to the country’s frequent ICBM-class missile tests. David Schmerler, a senior research associate at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, said the country had made a lot of progress since its last space launch attempt.

“The new space launcher will incorporate the developments they’ve accumulated to date, and it would make sense for the new system to be more advanced,” Schmerler said. If North Korea successfully launched a satellite, it would add to security concerns that have been mounting in recent years as Kim Jong Un tests new weapons for nuclear strikes.

North Korea’s spy satellites could enable the nation to use preemptive military force, which could significantly threaten regional peace and stability. If the country goes ahead with the launch using ballistic missile technology, even under the name of a satellite, it will violate U.N. resolutions.