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Will North Korea Launch Another Satellite Ahead of the South Korean General Election?

Shin Won Sik, “North Korean satellites just orbit without doing anything.”
Some military factories operate nonstop as Russia may increase support for North Korea”

북한이 지난해 11월 21일 3번째로 발사한 군사정찰위성(자료사진) ⓒ조선중앙통신The military reconnaissance satellite that North Korea launched for the third time on November 21 last year (archive photo) ⓒKorean Central News Agency

North Korea has repeatedly claimed that the first military reconnaissance satellite (Manrikyung-1) that it successfully put into orbit after its third launch last November is in normal operation, but no actual signs of operation have been detected.

Minister of Defense Shin Won Sik said at a meeting on the 26th, “(Manrikyung-1) is orbiting, but when it orbits, it should work. However, there are no signs of it working. It’s just orbiting without doing any work.”

This is interpreted to mean that while it is showing certain movements after successfully entering orbit, there is no evidence related to telemetry (remote communication information) such as taking and transmitting satellite photos.

In fact, Minister Shin said that North Korea’s Manrikyung-1 is “not doing reconnaissance and not relaying communication with the ground.”

Minister Shin said that he is paying attention to North Korea’s fourth launch, which North Korea announced after predicting that Russia will continue to transfer satellite-related technology to North Korea.

If the Manrikyung-1, which succeeded in entering orbit after its third launch, produces advanced results, it is evaluated that the level of technology transfer from Russia can be estimated.

When North Korea’s first and second satellite launches failed last year, the South Korean military analyzed the functions and performance of the equipment installed by collecting debris.

Minister Shin predicted the timing of North Korea’s additional satellite launch in April, but said, “Since our launch is in early April, if Kim Jong Un orders to launch before South Korea, they can proceed at the end of March.

This indicates that North Korea could move up its launch schedule considering that the South Korean military is planning to launch the second reconnaissance satellite in early April.

북한 군사정찰위성 1호기가 지난해 5월 31일 서해상에 추락한 가운데 군 당국이 관련 일부 잔해를 인양해 공개하는 모습(자료사진). ⓒ데일리안 홍금표 기자The scene of the military authorities revealing some of the debris related to the crash of the first North Korean military reconnaissance satellite in the West Sea on May 31 last year (archive photo). ⓒDailyan reporter Hong Geum Pyo

After last year’s Russia-North Korea summit, the container volume from Russia to North Korea
increased to 30% more than from North Korea to Russia

North Korea, which is expecting Russia’s advanced technology transfer, has been found to be operating some military factories full-time even in poor conditions such as power shortages and lack of raw materials.

The average operation rate of military factories is estimated to be about 30%, but it is explained that factories producing weapons for export to Russia are running without a break.

As North Korea is virtually serving as Russia’s logistics base, the military authorities judge that Russia is providing food and daily necessities in return.

In fact, after last year’s Russia-North Korea summit, it was confirmed that the number of containers heading from Russia to North Korea was about 30% more than the number of containers moving from North Korea to Russia.

Minister Shin evaluated that the possibility of food aid is high, although it is difficult to know about the specific items.

In addition, it is observed that daily necessities or various materials and parts are being supplied through containers. It is analyzed that various sub-materials that can be used for weapon production are put in containers and sent to North Korea, and then finished products are produced in North Korea and re-imported into Russia.

Minister Shin said, “Although North Korea is asking Russia for aircraft, ground mobile equipment, and technology that they are lacking, it is uncertain how much Russia will give.”

However, he left room for possibility by stating, “As Russia continues to owe North Korea a debt of gratitude, won’t (the support items) increase?”

군수공장을 둘러보는 김정은 북한 국무위원장(자료사진) ⓒ조선중앙통신Kim Jong Un, the Chairman of the State Affairs Commission of North Korea, looking around the military factory (archive photo) ⓒKorean Central News Agency

North Korean cruise missile has two purposes: export and provocation

Minister Shin evaluated the North Korean cruise missile provocations, which have been carried out five times since the beginning of this year, as actions considering both domestic and foreign purposes.

It is observed that North Korea, which is inferior in naval power, is stepping up the development of cruise missiles that do not violate the United Nations Security Council resolution to strengthen its deterrence against South Korea, and is repeatedly testing to export to Russia.

Minister Shin said, “I am watching whether the cruise missile is for export and provocation.”

He continued, “North Korean cruise missiles include ground-to-ground, ground-to-ship, and air-to-ship,” and “With UN Security Council resolutions, they focus on developing cruise missiles rather than regulate.

북한의 순항미사일 발사 장면(자료사진) ⓒ조선중앙통신The scene of North Korea’s cruise missile launch (archive photo) ⓒKorean Central News Agency

North Korea exaggerates the performance of new underwater nuclear weapons system,
A tactical nuclear attack submarine, but no special activity

Minister Shin expressed skepticism about the various weapon systems that North Korea has newly unveiled.

Regarding the nuclear unmanned underwater attack ship Haeil, which North Korea unveiled as a new underwater nuclear weapons system, he evaluated, “It’s not easy to load a nuclear warhead. It requires a considerable amount of time and effort.”

He said, “It will take time for North Korea to succeed in developing Haeil. Even if they succeed, there is no possibility of a (radioactive) tsunami. There could be port damage or radioactive contamination, but the rest seems exaggerated.”

In addition, Minister Shin commented on the Hero Kim Kun Ok Submarine, which North Korea unveiled last year as a tactical nuclear attack submarine, by saying, “There has been no special activity after submerging. There was also no sea test outside the submergence. We evaluate that it is installed inside.”

Previously, when North Korea unveiled the actual model of the Hero Kim Kun Ok Submarine in September last year, the Joint Chiefs of Staff said, “We judge that it is not in a state where it can be operated normally.”

북한이 지난해 4월 '수중전략무기체계'라며 공개한 '해일-2'의 시험발사를 진행하는 모습(자료사진) ⓒ조선중앙통신The scene of North Korea conducting a test launch of Haeil-2, which was unveiled as an underwater strategic weapons system last April (archive photo) ⓒKorean Central News Agency
지난해 9월 북한이 '전술핵공격잠수함'이라며 공개한 '김군옥영웅함'(자료사진). ⓒ조선중앙통신The Hero Kim Gun Ok Submarine, which North Korea unveiled as a tactical nuclear attack submarine last September (archive photo). ⓒKorean Central News Agency
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