North Korea’s ‘Satellite’ Launch: Moscow’s Technical Assistance Prompted Pyongyang’s Outrageous Action

Military provocations that threaten regional peace and stability are absolutely unacceptable. Japan, the United States and South Korea need to strengthen cooperation and foment international public opinion to stop such outrageous acts.

North Korea used ballistic missile technology to launch a projectile that Pyongyang claimed was a “military reconnaissance satellite.” The projectile separated into multiple parts, the first of which fell into the East China Sea, with the second part passing over the airspace between Okinawa Island and Miyako Island and falling into the Pacific Ocean.

Pyongyang claims that it launched an artificial satellite, but a launch using ballistic missile technology constitutes a violation of the U.N. Security Council’s sanctions resolutions.

The so-called satellite was successfully placed in orbit, North Korea announced. While the South Korean government acknowledged that the satellite had entered orbit, Seoul said it would take time to judge whether the device is operating normally.

The Japanese government initially announced that no satellite has been confirmed to be put in orbit around the Earth. Tokyo should verify whether its detection capabilities are working appropriately.

North Korea has indicated its plan to launch several more reconnaissance satellites in the future. Pyongyang sticks to its “satellite” launch probably because the country aims to show off its capabilities to monitor the movements of the U.S. and South Korean militaries and the Self-Defense Forces, and to display its improvement in missile technology.

Pyongyang attempted to launch military reconnaissance satellites in May and August, but failed. Speculation is rife about Russia’s involvement in the “successful” launch this time.

In September when Russian President Vladimir Putin met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who also is general secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea, Putin expressed his intention to support North Korea’s satellite development. The South Korean military has indicated that Russian engineers visited North Korea after this meeting to provide technical assistance.

Russia, a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, supported the sanctions resolutions against North Korea’s missile launches through 2017. While Russia should be in a position to prevent the launch, it would be egregious if Moscow were to provide technological support to Pyongyang.

Immediately after the latest launch, the Japanese government issued an emergency warning to Okinawa Prefecture via the J-Alert nationwide early warning system. The alert was issued nine minutes before the projectile passed over the prefecture, and there was no major confusion among residents.

North Korea is under strict restrictions on trade in arms and fuel. Nevertheless, it is believed that Pyongyang is able to finance its nuclear and missile development by stealing large amounts of crypto assets through cyber-attacks.

Last month, Japan, the United States and South Korea decided to hold talks among respective high-ranking officials to address North Korea’s cyber-attacks. There is an urgent need to take concrete measures to cut off this source of funds.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 23, 2023)