Go to contents

N. Korea: Ballistic missile launch was a test for reconnaissance satellite development

N. Korea: Ballistic missile launch was a test for reconnaissance satellite development

Posted March. 01, 2022 07:24,   

Updated March. 01, 2022 07:24


North Korea said on Monday that its medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM) launch in Pyongyang on Sunday was an important test to develop a reconnaissance satellite. The country claimed that it was to verify the shooting and transmission system of a camera to be mounted on the reconnaissance satellite and the characteristics and movement accuracy of a position control device. Then, it revealed the pictures of the earth shot by a camera mounted on the missile. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ordered the development of a military reconnaissance satellite along with the development of a hypersonic missile and tactical nuclear weapon in January last year.

Experts say that North Korea’s claim is hard to believe, given the test method. The missile’s steep parabola is similar to that of a sounding rocket for scientific research. A sounding rocket is used to research ultraviolet rays, infrared rays, and gravity in the super-upper atmosphere. “There is no case of testing performance by the method of mounting a satellite camera on a ballistic missile,” said Professor Jang Yeong-geun at Korea Aerospace University.

The pictures revealed by North Korea also have poor resolution. They are only the panoramas of the Korean Peninsula in an altitude and composition similar to the pictures taken with the launch of a Hwasong-12 MRBM on January 30. A military source said that the resolution of a camera for a reconnaissance satellite is around 50 centimeters and that such a resolution has almost no military value.

This is why some believe that North Korea is in fact trying to build a base for the launch of a long-range rocket, which is practically an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), after it indicated the annulment of a moratorium on nuclear tests and ICBM launch. The country may launch a long-range rocket on the excuse of launching a reconnaissance satellite for the 110th anniversary of Kim Il Sung’s birthday. “It may be North Korea’s strategy to feel out the international community’s reactions by using the fact that the launch of an ICBM-level rocket on the ground of the right to peacefully use a satellite cannot be seen as the violation of the moratorium,” said a South Korean government source.

Some suspect that North Korea might be testing a scenario to carry out an electromagnetic pulse attack by launching an MRBM or higher level ballistic missile with nuclear weapons to Seoul and nearby regions in case of emergency.

Jin-Woo Shin niceshin@donga.com · Sang-Ho Yun ysh1005@donga.com