North Korean newspaper Rodong Sinmun published a commentary laying out the country’s plans to send more satellites into space over the next five years. The program “can contribute to improving the economy and people’s lives,” the article reads.
“It is a global trend to seek economic development through space programs,” the October 31 piece said. “According to our five-year plan for space development, we will launch more working satellites, such as geostationary ones.” Geostationary satellites orbit the Earth about 38,500 kilometers (22,000 miles) over a fixed position over the equator and revolve from west to east like the Earth.
North Korea launched the Kwangmyongsong-4 Earth observation satellite into orbit in February 2016. North Korea has only managed to successfully send two spacecraft into orbit out of five attempts.
Some experts have suggested that previous satellite launches were actually covert tests of intercontinental ballistic missiles components, the Korea Times reports, especially since technology used for launching satellites is also used in missiles. The former Soviet Union and US adopted a similar practice during the Cold War. Pyongyang has long sought to arm ICBMs with nuclear weapons in order to create a credible deterrent threat to adversaries.
Last month, US Strategic Command Gen. John Hyten said “we have to assume, and as commander of Strategic Command I have to assume, that they have the bomb and they will have the capability to deploy it on an ICBM.”
Analysts have recently noted a marked increase in activity near the Sohae satellite launch station, where satellites have taken off before, the Korea Times reports. However, satellite imagery captured by 38 North, a website dedicated to North Korean studies, in early August showed there were “no visible indications of preparations for either a satellite launch or an engine test.”
Pyongyang’s space program has sparked diplomatic disputes in the past.
Following the February, 2016 test of Kwangmyongsong-4, then-US Secretary of State John Kerry called the satellite launch a “major provocation, threatening not only the security of the Korean Peninsula, but of that region and the United States as well,” adding that Washington would “work with our partners and members of the UN Security Council on significant measures to hold the DPRK to account.”
“No matter how persistently the hostile forces may deny the DPRK’s status as a satellite manufacturer and launcher, its status can never change and it can never abandon its projects because of anyone’s opposition,” a February Rodong Sinmun article reads.
In the October 31 piece, the paper reiterated, “Some specific countries manipulated United Nations Security Council sanctions and prevent space development of a legitimate sovereign nation only because they are irritated.” This is “unacceptable,” it said.