North Korean state media on Thursday declared that “building the space industry is an indispensable project for national development and the improvement of people’s lives.”
Dictator Kim Jong-un boasted last week that his military now has the capability to put a spy satellite in orbit, but no such launch has taken place.
N. Korea says space program ‘indispensable’ for national development https://t.co/Cv03Sy6AVX
— Yonhap News Agency (@YonhapNews) April 27, 2023
Kim’s tightly controlled media quoted various ministers, and Kim himself, touting a satellite network as useful for land management, disaster relief efforts, weather forecasting, and communications.
Beyond North Korea’s borders, most observers expect the imminent launch of a military surveillance satellite that will do none of those things.
Kim issued a public order to North Korean officials last Tuesday that they should prepare to launch “several reconnaissance satellites” to protect North Korea’s “right to national sovereignty and self-defense.” He said military satellites were needed to counter “prospective threats” from the United States and South Korea.
Kim gave this order while visiting North Korea’s National Aerospace Development Administration, which promised in December that it would be capable of launching reconnaissance satellites by April 2023. Kim claimed “military reconnaissance satellite Number One” has been constructed and is ready for orbit.
Kim was traveling in the company of his long-hidden daughter and possible heir Kim Ju-ae, who made her public debut in November at the test launch of a new intercontinental ballistic missile. Kim has brought his ten-year-old daughter to numerous major military events many times since then, apparently as part of her political indoctrination.
Thursday’s hype from North Korean state media suggests the satellite launch could happen very soon. Many observers thought Pyongyang would pull the trigger while South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol was in Washington this week.
Japan took this possibility seriously enough last Saturday to put its missile forces on alert, ordering them to shoot down any satellite debris that might rain down on Japanese territory.
“It was the first time since December 2012 that Japan issued an order for the deployment of the Patriot (PAC3) and Aegis-equipped destroyers specifically to “prepare to destroy” any missiles fired by North Korea. More generally, a standing “order to destroy” that enables the SDF to intercept projectiles was first issued in 2009, and has been continuously in effect since August 2016,” The Diplomat noted on Thursday.