Kim "conquers" space: A new plan for North Korea

Qin Jong-un
Kim Jong-un / Photo: EPA-EFE / KCNA EDITORIAL USE ONLY

Major players in North Korea's airspace gathered last week to discuss plans for "peaceful space development" and how to link new satellite technology research to economic growth, state media reported on Sunday, as concerns about potential military remain. applications and the Earth's space program.

The event comes after leader Kim Jong Un ordered the development of a military reconnaissance satellite in January, after South Korea launched a space rocket last month.

North Korean propaganda to promote the airspace has been on the rise in recent years, and Pyongyang has been hosting a space science symposium since 2014.

State media hid the news of the 2018 event amid ongoing denuclearization talks with Washington after the UN Security Council (UNSC) adopted sanctions in 2016, linking North Korea's space program to its ballistic missile capabilities.

According to Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), students and engineers from Kim Il Sung University, Kim Chaek University of Technology, State Academy of Sciences and other organizations attended a space science conference November 17-19.

They reportedly discussed new research as part of plans to produce and launch multiple satellites, including research into cameras, radar, communications and propulsion technologies.

"The symposium is conducive to the confident launch of our space development plan in line with the positive international efforts to develop and use space, the common wealth of humanity and to develop the country's economy," KCNA said.

Kim's satellite

The report does not disclose any updates to the work of Kim Jong Un's military reconnaissance satellite, which he commissioned as part of a five-year military development plan that focused mainly on environmental applications such as the use of satellite imagery to monitor forests and climate change. dangers. .

North Korea has revealed that work on the military side of its aviation sector was not active until October, briefly demonstrating satellite technology at a rocket show in Pyongyang.

But the last major event in space launch technology was the end of 2019. That month, the National Defense Academy of Science appeared to have conducted two rocket engine tests at the Sohae satellite launch site, presumably as part of plans to launch a military satellite or improve the country's intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) technology.

Pyongyang last launched a satellite into space in February 2016, and later considered plans for more launches as it accelerated the development of a new "space testing base" next to the capital's Satellite Control Center.

It seemed that the construction works on these facilities slowed down, and then remained unfinished from 2019 to 2020. It is unclear whether any of the buildings are in use or whether Pyongyang has successfully imported high-tech equipment in violation of international economic sanctions.

North Korea has not revealed a precise timeline for its next satellite launch, but usually announces such plans a few days before the scheduled date.

The United Nations Security Council said the launch of the Pyongyang satellites "contributes to the development of the DNRC's nuclear weapons delivery system" and imposed new sanctions in 2013 and 2016 following previous launches.

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