North Korea prepares to launch satellite: expert assesses Pyongyang’s missile program

“North Korean engineers have prepared a lot of interesting things”

North Korea conducted a series of four missile launches. One of them, the fourth, was called unsuccessful in Seoul: allegedly, the rocket exploded shortly after launch. Konstantin Asmolov, an expert of the Valdai Club, a leading researcher at the Center for Korean Studies at the Institute of the Far East of the Russian Academy of Sciences, told MK what these launches mean and how the United States can react to them.

Photo: AP

The Seoul Yonhap news agency, citing a source in the South Korean Committee of Chiefs of Staff, reported that in connection with the launches of the DPRK, US troops in South Korea have increased their combat readiness.

As Valdai Club expert Konstantin Asmolov said, the DPRK's voluntary moratorium on launches intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) is over. Therefore, blaming North Korea for violating something is, to put it mildly, incorrect.

Asmolov recalled that the DPRK announced this moratorium as a goodwill gesture at the end of 2017. They hoped that sanctions against the DPRK would be eased in response. But this did not happen, so the resumption of launches was a matter of time.

“After the Biden administration began active actions, including in the sanctions policy,” Asmolov said, “the North Koreans decided that it was possible to start acting, especially since North Korean engineers have prepared a lot of interesting things.”

The moratorium did not apply to short-range missiles. In this segment, the North Koreans have demonstrated in recent months both a hypersonic missile flight, a variant of the nuclear train, and cruise missiles.

“It is quite likely that they have something else,” the expert suggested.

He noted that two launches ended with the launch of rockets into outer space. “If we recalculate this very high trajectory to a normal one, we are talking about medium-range missiles,” the expert explained. The United States and its allies generally stated that it was an ICBM launch.

Konstantin Asmolov linked the resumption of missile launches with the desire of the United States to impose additional sanctions against the DPRK through the UN Security Council. At the same time, in his opinion, Russia and China, using the right of veto, are unlikely to allow this to be done.

“It is clear that with the Ukrainian crisis and the intensification of the US-Chinese confrontation, the discord in the UN Security Council may intensify,” the expert said. – If earlier all five countries (permanent members of the UN Security Council. – “MK”) together voted for resolutions against the DPRK, and between Moscow, Beijing and Washington there was only a discussion about what level of sanctions pressure would be present, but the very fact of the need for sanctions for the next nuclear test was not in doubt, then in the current situation we can expect something completely different.

In addition, as Asmolov said, “Sanctions do not affect some types of regimes – the standard of living is deteriorating, and for some reason people then he doesn't take to the streets.”

Assessing Pyongyang's possible steps in the field of missile programs, Asmolov said: “The DPRK is unlikely to arrange a nuclear explosion in the atmosphere. The most likely option is to launch a reconnaissance satellite. North Korea needs it not only to track opponents, but also to effectively combat typhoons that attack the DPRK coast.

According to the expert, for Pyongyang, this is “an excellent chance to test the reaction of the international community.”

“Because, on the one hand, there are resolutions that ban ballistic missiles, including space ones, on the other hand, no one has canceled the right of everyone to peaceful exploration of space,” he said.


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