North Korea May Have Launched Spy Satellite Rocket on the Day of Japan-China-South Korea Trilateral Summit to Pressurize 3 Countries

Pool photo / The Yomiuri Shimbun
A trilateral summit of Japan, China and South Korea is held in the Blue House guesthouse in Seoul on Monday morning.

SEOUL — It is possible that North Korea fired a rocket carrying a spy satellite on the day of a trilateral summit of Japan, China and South Korea to pressurize the three countries’ leaders’ discussion about the nation. North Korea had notified of and made the launch coinciding with the date of the trilateral summit.

It is likely that the launch by North Korea in the evening on Monday was to send a military reconnaissance satellite into orbit for monitoring bases of U.S. and South Korean military forces.

The country has previously successfully launched the Malligyong-1 reconnaissance satellite into orbit in November last year.

However, according to South Korean defense ministry and other sources, it is likely that North Korea has not conducted any reconnaissance, such as shooting photos and transmitting data, partly due to technical problems.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un announced in December last year that the country would launch three additional spy satellites in 2024.

North Korea notified other countries of the planned launch on the day of the trilateral summit.

Regarding the announcement, Cha Du Hyeogn, principal fellow of the Asian Institute for Policy Studies of South Korea, said, “[North Korea] predicted that South Korea and Japan would demand China exercise its influence on North Korea, and so attempted to convey that doing such a thing will not impact them [North Korea].”

Concerning North Korean reconnaissance satellites, an increasing number of experts assume that Russia, which has been continuing its aggression on Ukraine, has given technological assistance in exchange for weapons supply from North Korea.

On Sunday, South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency quoted a high-ranking South Korean government official as saying that Moscow dispatched engineers to Pyongyang for the most recent rocket launch.

Yonhap also said that the Russian engineers determined that the performance of the rocket engine did not reach sufficient levels for liftoff. Because of repeated combustion tests of the engines, the launch took place later than expected by Seoul and others.

The South Korean military had predicted that North Korea would conduct the launch possibly by the end of April.

The satellite launch in November last year was made just before the notified period. Both U.S. and South Korean military forces had prepared for a possibility that North Korea would make the launch in a very early stage of this time’s notified period.

Based on the announcement from North Korea, the South Korean air force implemented “formation flights and attack drills” in the afternoon on Monday with about 20 aircraft, including F-35A stealth fighters.