North Korea Says It Successfully Launched Spy Sat

Image: Korean Central News Agency

North Korea claimed on Wednesday that it successfully placed its first spy satellite in orbit, drawing a rebuke from the White House. 

How we got here: The Hermit Kingdom has tried twice already this year to launch a spy satellite, but both missions failed due to technical issues. If North Korean officials’ claims of a successful mission late on Tuesday night are true, it would seem that the third time’s the charm. 

As of this morning, there are more questions than answers. It’s unclear what capabilities the Malligyong-1 satellite has, whether it is strong enough to conduct national security reconnaissance missions, and what threat it could pose to US intelligence. 

It’s also not clear whether Russia played any role in the mission after Russian president Vladimir Putin met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the Vostochny Cosmodrome in September to discuss support for Pyongyang’s satellite program.

International blowback: The Biden administration said it “strongly condemns” the launch, in part because it used ballistic missile tech that violates UN Security Council resolutions. 

“This space launch involved technologies that are directly related to the [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] intercontinental ballistic missile program,” NSC spokesperson Adrienne Watson said in a statement. “The president and his national security team are assessing the situation in close coordination with our allies and partners.”

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