What North Korea’s Kim Jong Un Can Do With His New ‘Spy Satellite’
North Korea says that soon he will have his own spies in the skies capable of watching what your enemies dojust as the United States has been spying on the North for decades.
Pyongyang’s Korean Central News Agency made that claim this week, reporting that North Korea has tested its first spy satellite and will have one ready by April. The KCNA report was the last word on North Korea’s progress in developing missiles and nuclear warheads as a “defense” against its enemies, the United States, Japan and South Korea.
Kim Yo Jong, younger sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, scoffed at claims that the cameras were not as good as those advertised by the North Koreans. On Tuesday, Pyongyang’s Korean Central News Agency quoted her as saying that “the so-called experts were so interested in finding fault with others that they couldn’t help but utter nonsense words.”
Such talk was “nonsense,” Yo Jong said, as North Korea hinted that it might launch a missile attack against Japan in response to Japan’s policy change calling for counterattacks against its enemies. North Korea threatened to take real action to show “how much we are concerned and disgusted” by “Japan’s action of pursuing unfair and excessive ambition.”
The United States and South Korea have also engaged in a move that is sure to evoke a torrent of rhetoric from the North. In the largest show of force in the skies over and around South Korea, US F22 and B52 stealth bombers joined South Korean F35s and F15s in what US and South Korean commandos said were pre-planned exercises.
Last week, the North, under the watchful eye of the leader kim jong un, tested what it called a “high-thrust, solid-fuel motor” designed to draw missiles out of hiding and onto the launch pad before enemy satellites see them. In addition, the improved engine should ensure that missiles, with or without nuclear weapons, are easier to direct towards their targets.
The liquid-fueled engines that now propel North Korean missiles into space move slowly from their caves or tunnels and are therefore much easier to spot from above. Plus, who knows exactly where the hell they’ll land and blow up.
North Korea revealed its rapid advance as a military threat to the region days after Japan said it would double its military budget to $320 billion over five years as needed for defense against North Korea and China.
Japan is still not talking about developing nuclear warheads, but it is definitely breaking the constraint of spending more than one percent of its $5 trillion annual GNP on its euphemistically named “Self-Defense Forces” and possibly removing the famous Article 9 from its post- war “Constitution of Peace”. Passed down during the US military occupation under General Douglas MacArthur, Article 9 prohibits the Japanese from sending troops abroad or waging war.
Adding urgency to the North’s need for its own spy satellites, Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Japan should be able to fire its own missiles in self-defense. Presumably a North Korean spy satellite, if perfected by engineers and physicists who have managed to launch a number of other satellites over the years, would let people on the ground know what the Japanese were up to.
The North embellished its announcement with supposedly satellite images of Seoul, as if to show the South Koreans that they were in their sights. Or, as Hong Min of the Korean Institute for National Unification told South Korea’s Yonhap News, “make fun of it to show that they can spy on us.”
“Too raw to be used for any purpose.”
North Korea’s Central News Agency reported in detail on the test of the satellite, which was apparently launched by one of two intermediate-range missiles fired by the North on Sunday. They traveled some 340 miles and landed far off the north east coast.
The reason for the test, KCNA said, was to evaluate “the satellite photography and data transmission system and the ground control system” of the satellite. The test, he said, was “a major success that has gone through the final gateway process for launching a reconnaissance satellite.”
However, the North Korean masterminds still have a ways to go to perfect a satellite with the capabilities of US satellites.
Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post quoted Lie Il-wook of the Korea Defense Network as deriding the test as “too crude to be used for any purpose.” He noted that the KCNA report says the satellite could see images on the ground about 20 meters in size, while US satellites can distinguish the license plate numbers of motor vehicles.
North Korea’s National Aerospace Development Administration was not intimidated by such details.
In a mumbo-jumbo exercise, the English-language report says that the test “was carried out in the mode of evaluating the processing capacity and stability of the data transmission devices while verifying the reliability of the ground control system, including photo control command and attitude control command for various types of cameras in the optimal environment simulating the space environment after the wide-angle launch of a test satellite up to an altitude of 500 km.”
The KCNA report acknowledged, however, that “a panchromatic camera” aboard the test vehicle had only 20-meter resolution and omitted the range of two other “multispectral cameras, video transmitter and multi-band transmitters and receivers, devices control and batteries.
No problem. The test, it said, had “confirmed the important technical indices, including the operation technology of the camera in the space environment, the data processing and transmission capacity of the communication devices, and the tracking and control accuracy of the ground control”.
The United States has claimed that North Korea previously launched satellites to test its long-range missile systems, which the North has tested twice in recent months.
The Carnegie Endowment’s Ankit Panda seemed inclined to give the North due credit for developing the spy satellite. NK News, a South Korean website that monitors North Korea, quoted him as saying the test showed an “optical satellite payload with images of Seoul from: a significant altitude outside of Earth’s atmosphere.”
Officially, South Korea condemned the “provocation” of launching missiles, with or without satellites, which spokesman Cho Joong-hoon said violated United Nations sanctions. Yonhap quoted him as saying that “the North Korean authorities should make efforts to develop their economy and improve the human rights and quality of life of North Koreans.”
North Korea, ignoring the criticism, was elated by the solid-fuel engine test. In a commentary that covered virtually all of its advances over the past year, KCNA boasted: “This important test has provided a sure science and technology guarantee for the development of yet another new-type strategic weapons system.”