Kim Jong-un marks spy satellite victory

Kim Jong-un marks spy satellite victory

North Korea got lucky. After two previous failures earlier this year to launch a spy satellite, the Pyongyang regime successfully sent a satellite into orbit.

Using a powerful Chollima rocket, the military satellite was placed into orbit, prompting leader Kim Jong-un to proclaim the launch "had propelled the country into a new era of space power".

Amid recent celebrations with his immediate family, Mr Kim said: "The possession of a reconnaissance satellite is a full-fledged exercise of the right of self-defence" for the quaintly titled Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).

In a scene evoking a DPRK socialist Disneyland, Mr Kim is seen beaming at a celebratory reception of space scientists and technicians along with his wife Ri Sol-ju and daughter, Kim Ju-ae.

She is wearing a glitzy space-themed T-shirt, which was dutifully reported by the North state-run Korean Central News Agency.

Mr Kim's daughter Ju-ae, though believed to be in her early teens, appears to be being groomed for an eventual leadership role in the unique Marxist monarchy started by the current ruler's grandfather, Kim Il-sung, back in 1948.

Initial scepticism over the launch and the technological capacity of the spy satellite is actually secondary to the fact that North Korea has done it.

Psychologically, this brings the DPRK military capacity up a notch.

Deploying an operational spy satellite is an integral part of North Korea's five-year military plan.

In theory, the satellite could allow the North to monitor South Korean and American military forces on the divided peninsula as well as beyond the immediate region towards Okinawa and Guam.

According to the South Korean intelligence agency, the launch was aided and abetted by Russian aid and technical assistance, reflecting the warming ties between Pyongyang and Moscow in the wake of Vladimir Putin's surprise visit to the communist hermit kingdom in September.

Significantly, multiple United Nations Security Council sanctions resolutions clearly forbid the DPRK regime to develop and test ballistic missile technology.

Addressing the launch at a Security Council meeting, Assistant Secretary General Khaled Khiari stated clearly: "While sovereign states have the right to benefit from peaceful space activities, Security Council resolutions expressly prohibit the DPRK from conducting any launches using ballistic missile technology."

Shortly after the missile firing, nine members of the Security Council, including France, the United Kingdom and the United States, along with South Korea, issued a statement to "strongly condemn the Democratic People's Republic of Korea's Nov 21 launch of a space launch vehicle [SLV] using ballistic missile technology.

"In addition to launching three SLVs this year, the DPRK has launched 29 ballistic missiles, including four ICBMs. This behaviour threatens international and regional peace and security."

It added: "The DPRK must abandon its unlawful weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programmes in a complete, verifiable, and irreversible manner."

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also condemned Pyongyang for carrying out a military satellite launch using ballistic missile technology.

All of the recent inter-Korean Sturm und Drang over the satellite launch caused Pyongyang to scrap a 2018 military accord, which, in effect, seeks to de-escalate crises and avoid military miscalculations.

Abrogation of the accord raises the risk of inadvertent clashes along the 38th parallel dividing the two Korean states.

Seoul's respected Korea Times said editorially: "Now is the time for the two Koreas to regain their cool and seek an exit strategy. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un perceives, or misperceives, the current global situation as favourable for his reclusive regime."

Naturally, reading the tea leaves in his isolated Pyongyang bubble allows supreme leader Mr Kim the political misperception that South Korea, given the military overstretch of its American allies in Ukraine, Israel and possibly Taiwan at some point, faces a vulnerable moment.

Moreover, Pyongyang's renewed political bromance with Mr Putin's rogue Russian state, along with its longtime but wary comrades in Beijing, may tempt the Democratic People's Republic of Korea with the illusion that it is moving in the company of giants.

This would be a very dangerous miscalculation.

John J Metzler is a United Nations correspondent covering diplomatic and defence issues. He is the author of 'Divided Dynamism The Diplomacy of Separated Nations; Germany, Korea, China'.

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