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ConflictsNorth Korea

North Korea says spy satellite launch was self-defense

November 24, 2023

Kim Jong Un labelled the launch an "eye-opening event" amid "dangerous and aggressive" moves by hostile forces. South Korea suspects Pyongyang had Russian help.

Kim Jong Un
Kim Jong Un, accompanied by his young daughter Ju Ae, praised the scientists at the space agencyImage: KCNA/KNS/AFP

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un celebrated the successful launch of a military spy satellite into orbit by heralding the advent of a "new era of a space power," state media KCNA reported on Friday. 

On Tuesday, Pyongyang announced that it had successfully launched the "Malligyong-1" satellite. This was its third attempt to put a spy satellite into orbit.

Kim justified the launch as a right to self-defense, while Premier Kim Tok Hun portrayed it as a demonstration of North Korea's capability to strike targets globally, according to state media.

'Right to self-defense'

At the National Aerospace Technology Administration (NATA), Kim labeled the launch an "eye-opening event" amid "dangerous and aggressive" moves by hostile forces, KCNA reported.

Attending the space agency's celebratory reception, Kim said "The possession of a reconnaissance satellite is a full-fledged exercise of the right to self-defense, the DPRK armed forces can neither concede even a bit nor stop, even a moment."

Kim, accompanied by his young daughter Ju Ae and other family members, praised the scientists at NATA.

According to KCNA, all attendees "enthusiastically cheered expressing thanks to the great father who finally ensured the successful launch."

South Korea suspects Russian help

The launch follows Kim's September meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin who assured Pyongyang of support to build satellites.

South Korean officials said the latest launch most likely involved Russian technical assistance.

Soon after the launch, North Korea said Kim was already reviewing images of US military bases in Guam.

Seoul acknowledged the launch was successful but noted that it was too early to say whether the satellite is operating as the North claimed.

Concerns grow that North Korea is sending weapons to Russia

Spy satellite launch heightens tensions

Both the UN and the US condemned the launch saying it was in violation of UN resolutions that bar North Korea's use of technology applicable to ballistic missile programs.

As a response, South Korea partially suspended a five-year-old military accord with the North while also increasing surveillance along the border.

Pyongyang retaliated on Wednesday by scrapping the pact, aimed at reducing military tensions, altogether, declaring it will "never be bound" by the agreement.

Experts say a working spy satellite would enhance North Korea's intelligence capabilities, especially over South Korea, and be vital in any military conflict.

ss/ab (AFP, Reuters)