North Korea Plans Rocket Launch, Likely to Deploy 2nd Military Spy Satellite
North Korea Plans Rocket Launch, Likely to Deploy 2nd Military Spy Satellite

North Korea has announced plans to launch a rocket, possibly carrying its second military spy satellite, by early next week. This move has drawn swift and strong condemnation from neighboring countries South Korea and Japan, as it violates UN resolutions. The announcement of the planned launch coincided with the first trilateral meeting in over four years between South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, and Chinese Premier Li Qiang in Seoul.

Japan's coast guard confirmed it was notified by North Korea about the planned launch of a "satellite rocket," with safety warnings issued in waters between the Korean Peninsula and China, and east of the Philippine island of Luzon, starting Monday through midnight June 3. North Korea provides this launch information to Japan because Japan's coast guard coordinates and distributes maritime safety information in East Asia.

North Korea's intended launch is likely an effort to deploy its second military spy satellite into orbit. South Korea's military reported detecting signs of preparations for a spy satellite launch at North Korea's main Tongchangri launch facility in the northwest.

The UN prohibits North Korea from conducting any satellite launches, viewing them as cover for testing its long-range missile technology. North Korea argues it has the right to launch satellites and test missiles, claiming they would enhance its ability to monitor US and South Korean activities and improve the precision-strike capability of its nuclear-capable missiles.

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, at the start of the meeting with Kishida and Li, emphasized that any launch by North Korea using ballistic missile technology would directly violate UN Security Council resolutions and undermine regional and global peace and security. He added, "If North Korea presses ahead with its launch despite international warnings, I think the international community must sternly deal with it."

Prime Minister Kishida strongly urged North Korea to cancel the launch plan, while Premier Li did not mention the North Korean launch plan during the trilateral meeting.

Earlier on Monday, senior diplomats from Japan, South Korea, and the United States held phone talks and agreed to urge North Korea to cancel the launch. South Korea's Unification Ministry separately condemned North Korea's satellite launch as a provocation seriously threatening regional and national security.

In November last year, North Korea launched its first military reconnaissance satellite to establish a space-based surveillance network amid what it perceives as increasing US-led military threats. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un announced plans to launch three additional military spy satellites in 2024.

Experts doubt the military effectiveness of North Korea's satellites, but some believe operating several satellites could help monitor large targets continuously.

The launch notification to Japan identified the same danger zones for rocket debris as prior launches, indicating North Korea might reuse the same rocket stages.

Since 2022, North Korea has conducted a series of provocative missile tests to modernize and expand its weapons arsenals, prompting the US, South Korea, and Japan to strengthen their security partnership.

North Korea was not officially on the agenda for Monday's trilateral meeting, but during a bilateral meeting with Premier Li on Sunday, President Yoon asked China, as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, to contribute to peace on the Korean Peninsula and discussed North Korea's nuclear program and its deepening military ties with Russia.

South Korea, Japan, and the US have urged China, North Korea's major ally and economic supporter, to use its influence to persuade North Korea to abandon its nuclear ambitions. However, China has been suspected of not fully enforcing UN sanctions on North Korea and providing clandestine aid to support its impoverished neighbor.

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