North Korea Intends To Launch Its First Spy Satellite In April, 2023

North Korea is continuing preparations for the launch of the nation’s first intelligence satellite, set for April, 2023. State media reported on Monday that “important, final phase” test was conducted Sunday. According to KCNA, the National Aerospace Development Administration (NADA) oversaw the test at the Sohae satellite launching station. The test’s purpose was to confirm progress on satellite imaging, data transmission and ground control systems. A vehicle supposedly carrying a mock satellite was launched. Coincidentally, South Korea and Japan both reported the isolated launches of two North Korean medium-range ballistic missiles Sunday, adding some credibility to the report.

KCNA also distributed two black and white low-resolution photographs of Seoul and the South Korean port of Inchon, located a short distance away. Apparently, these images were taken on Sunday during the launch. However, the low-resolution images, as well as photographs of the launch site have produced skepticism among many observers. Specifically, the launch vehicle for the test, which appeared to be an obsolete rocket carrying cameras. There were no signs of a satellite being carried.

This observation aside, North Korea’s determination to place a spy satellite in orbit this coming spring falls in line with Pyongyang’s drive to modernize its nuclear weapon and missile programs. If a satellite is launched in April its cameras will be obsolete by modern standards. This aside, placing an intelligence gathering platform in orbit will signal an advancement and acknowledgement of the North’s technological capabilities. As has been the case with its missile programs, subsequent satellites will see marked improvements from the original.

Kim Jong Un is certainly making the most of the world being distracted by the war in Ukraine, and to a lesser degree China for most of the past year. Missile launches have become an almost weekly event. So much so that the world hardly notices, despite the fact a number of the tests openly defy UN resolutions and sanctions aimed at the North’s nuclear weapon programs. In the absence of a strict rebuke or effective deterrent from the UN or United States, the tests and progress will assuredly continue on and North Korea’s nuclear weapon programs will reap the rewards.

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