SEOUL, May 17, 2023 (BSS/AFP) - Leader Kim Jong Un has inspected North Korea's first military spy satellite and gave the go-ahead for its "future action plan," state media said Wednesday.
Kim met with the Non-permanent Satellite Launch Preparatory Committee on Tuesday before viewing the satellite, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported.
A month ago, Kim said construction of the satellite was completed and gave the green light for its launch.
That report on April 18 came about a week after Pyongyang launched what it said was a new solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile, marking a major breakthrough in its banned weapons programs.
Analysts have said there is significant technological overlap between the development of ICBMs and space launch capabilities.
On Tuesday, "after acquainting himself in detail with the work of the committee, (Kim) inspected the military reconnaissance satellite No. 1, which is ready for loading after undergoing the final general assembly check and space environment test", KCNA said.
Kim accused the United States and South Korea of escalating what he called "confrontational moves" against the North and said his country will exercise its right to self-defence.
Kim then "approved the future action plan of the preparatory committee", KCNA added.
The development of a military reconnaissance satellite was one of the key defence projects outlined by Kim in 2021.
In December 2022, North Korea said it had carried out an "important final-stage test" for the development of a spy satellite, which it said it would complete by April this year.
At the time, experts in South Korea quickly raised doubts about the results, saying the quality of black-and-white images released by North Korea -- purportedly taken from a satellite -- was poor.
Pyongyang has not provided a launch date, though last month Kim said the satellite would be sent up "at the planned date"
North Korea declared itself an "irreversible" nuclear power last year, effectively ending the possibility of denuclearisation talks.
Pyongyang would struggle to do satellite reconnaissance with its own technology and without high tech help from Russia or China, analysts say.
Still, "since North Korea's reconnaissance satellites are an important factor in the event of a nuclear pre-emptive strike, they pose a significant threat to the South", Yang Moo-jin, president of the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, told AFP last month.
Washington and Seoul have ramped up defence cooperation in response, staging joint military exercises with advanced stealth jets and high-profile US strategic assets.
North Korea views such exercises as rehearsals for invasion and described them as "frantic" drills "simulating an all-out war against" Pyongyang.