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South Korea warns neighbours over planned spy satellite launch
20 November 2023, 05:24
North Korea failed in its first two attempt to launch a spy satellite but has vowed to try again.
South Korea has warned North Korea not to go ahead with a planned spy satellite launch, saying Seoul could suspend an inter-Korean peace deal and resume frontline aerial surveillance in retaliation.
North Korea failed in its first two attempts to put a military spy satellite into orbit earlier this year and did not follow through on a vow to make a third attempt in October.
South Korean officials said the delay was likely because North Korea is receiving Russian technological assistance and a launch could be conducted within days.
Defence minister Shin Wonsik said in an interview with public broadcaster KBS on Sunday the launch was expected later this month and that South Korean and US authorities were monitoring North Korea’s moves.
Senior military officer Kang Hopil urged North Korea to cancel the launch attempt.
“Our military will come up with necessary measures to protect the lives and safety of the people, if North Korea pushes ahead with a military spy satellite launch despite our warning,” he said in a televised statement on Monday.
The UN Security Council has banned any satellite launches by North Korea because it views them as a disguised test of its missile technology.
Mr Kang said while North Korea needs a spy satellite to improve its monitoring of South Korea, its launch is also aimed at bolstering its long-range missile program.
He hinted any response could include a suspension of 2018 inter-Korean military agreements requiring both Koreas to halt aerial surveillance activities and live-firing drills along their tense border.
“Despite the North’s repeated violations of the agreement, our military has been patiently abiding by clauses in the military agreement, but that has caused considerable problems in our military’s readiness,” Mr Kang said.
The military deal, reached during a short-lived rapprochement between South Korea’s then liberal President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, created buffer zones along land and sea boundaries and no-fly zones above the border to prevent accidental clashes.
South Korea has accused North Korea of receiving Russian technologies to enhance its nuclear and other military capabilities in return for suppling conventional arms to support Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Both Moscow and Pyongyang have dismissed as groundless the alleged arms transfer deal, but both nations — locked in separate, protracted security tensions with the United States — have been openly pushing to expand bilateral co-operation.