North Korea has vowed to conduct another military spy satellite launch after their failed attempt earlier this year. The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported last week that top North Korean officials made the pledge at a key Worker’s Party of Korea meeting, heavily criticizing those involved with the botched operation that took place May 31st.
The spy satellite crashed into the sea shortly after being put into orbit due to what Pyongyang deemed rocket failure. South Korea collected some of the debris from the ‘Chollima-1’ rocket and have been working for weeks to gain insight into North Korean surveillance and missile programs. The failed launch presented a public setback to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s burgeoning space-based reconnaissance programs designed to counteract what he calls U.S.-led hostility. He seeks to acquire a hypersonic missile, a nuclear submarine, and an intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM. Ri Pyong Chol, a top North Korean official, said the country requires a space-based monitoring system to oppose escalating security threats from South Korea and the United States. North Korea had previously demonstrated its increasingly advanced military capabilities throughout 2022, with a record number of missile launches.
The international publicity of the failure poses questions for the future of the program. “It is impressive when the North Korean regime actually admits failure, but it would be difficult to hide the fact of a satellite launch failure internationally, and the regime will likely offer a different narrative domestically,” said Professor Easley from Ewha University in Seoul. “This outcome also suggests that Pyongyang may stage another provocation soon, in part to make up for [the] setback.” In this sense, North Korea’s promise to re-try the launch is not a shock. However, just because the rest of the world may not be surprised, doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be worried. “They are remarkably open about their development plans,” Andrew Lankov, an expert in North Korea at Kookmin University, said. “They are determined to do it. They have the means. They have the engineers. They have the money. They will do it. Maybe not now. Maybe there will be a few more attempts, but finally they will succeed.”
The nuclear state’s clear insistence on building out their technological military capabilities poses a clear threat to global norms of disarmament and non-aggression. A satellite launch by North Korea is a violation of international resolutions barring the country from using ballistic missile technology. The Secretary-General of the U.N. condemned the satellite launch and instead urged Pyongyang to revisit denuclearisation talks that have been suspended since 2019. Even though the United Nations has previously imposed sanctions on the country over past missile launches, permanent Security Council members Russia and China have blocked attempts to strengthen enforcement after these most recent tests.
Individual countries, though, have continued to raise serious concerns about North Korea’s weapons advancement as well as prepare themselves against it. The White House and the U.S. National Security Council condemned the initial launch due to the fact that it used ballistic missile technology that had been banned, raised international tensions, and destabilized regional security. With regards to regional commitments, the United States has also vowed to take all necessary measures to defend not only their territory, but South Korea and Japan as well. Seoul stated that it has boosted its military preparedness in coordination with the U.S., and Tokyo said that it is prepared to respond to any emergency.
In addition to preparing domestically, it is crucial for the international community to approach disarmament and denuclearization talks with the utmost importance and urgency. North Korea’s pursuit of advanced military capabilities poses a direct threat to global norms of disarmament and their renewed military commitments underscore the need for collective action to address this escalating security concern. Global stability hinges upon the successful resolution of this issue, especially as Russia and China continue to impede international condemnation efforts. A more unified international approach is necessary to ensure the peaceful resolution of the growing North Korean nuclear issue and to maintain international security.