South Korea has launched its inaugural spy satellite in response to neighboring North Korea’s launch of a similar satellite.

VANDENBERG SPACE FORCE BASE, Calif. (AP) — South Korea launched its first military spy satellite into space Friday, a little over a week after North Korea claimed to put its own spy satellite into orbit for the first time as tensions rise between the rivals.

The first of five spy satellites that South Korea plans to send into space by 2025 under a contract with SpaceX was launched from California’s Vandenberg Space Force Base using the Falcon 9 rocket. The event was originally planned for earlier in the week but was delayed due to poor weather conditions.

South Korea did not have any military reconnaissance satellites in orbit and relied on the use of the United States’ spy satellites to observe North Korea’s actions.

The Defense Ministry of South Korea announced that the launch was a success, noting that the satellite successfully communicated with a ground station outside of the country.

The ministry released a statement stating that the launch enabled the South Korean military to possess their own space-based surveillance system. The satellite will also enhance the military’s ability to launch preemptive missile strikes, an important aspect of their three-axis system which includes missile defense and strong retaliatory capabilities.

Following two unsuccessful attempts earlier this year, North Korea announced that it had successfully launched its Malligyong-1 surveillance satellite into orbit last week. The country has also claimed that the satellite has transmitted images of significant locations in the United States and South Korea, such as the White House and the Pentagon. However, no satellite photos have been released as of yet.

Officials from the United States and South Korea have verified that the North Korean satellite successfully entered orbit. However, numerous experts from other countries doubt its capability to transmit high-resolution images that would be useful for military purposes.

The recent satellite launch by North Korea has resulted in swift and forceful criticism from the United States, South Korea, and other countries. Various resolutions from the United Nations Security Council prohibit North Korea from launching satellites, as they are believed to be a disguise for testing their long-range missile capabilities.

The country of North Korea has expressed its displeasure and stated that it has the authority to launch surveillance satellites in response to what it perceives as growing aggression from the United States. Additionally, they declared their intention to launch more in the future.

Over the weekend, the Defense Ministry of North Korea warned of potential actions against U.S. spy satellites in response to remarks made by an unnamed official from the U.S. Space Command. The ministry deemed these comments as “rubbish” and suggested they hinted at a possible attack on North Korea’s own satellite. Any such action would be seen as a declaration of war, according to the North Korean ministry.

The statement from North Korea was in response to comments made by Sheryll Klinkel, a public affairs officer for the U.S. Space Forces. These comments were reported by Radio Free Asia, a news service funded by the U.S. government, earlier in the week.

When asked about the US’s capability to prevent North Korea’s spy satellite from functioning, Klinkel stated that through Joint Force space operations, they can restrict an enemy’s space and counterspace abilities through reversible and irreversible methods. This would decrease the effectiveness and danger of enemy forces in all areas.

The launch of a satellite by North Korea has caused increased hostility between the two Koreas, resulting in actions that violate a previous military agreement aimed at reducing tension on the front line.

Kim Jong Un has declared plans to incorporate advanced spy satellites into their arsenal. In the years since 2022, North Korea has carried out approximately 100 trials of ballistic missiles, with the goal of enhancing their collection of weapons aimed at South Korea and the United States. Both South Korea and the United States have increased their military drills.

Last week, South Korea’s intelligence agency informed legislators that Russia’s aid in technology likely aided North Korea in launching a spy satellite into orbit. The United States, Japan, and South Korea have all accused North Korea of trying to obtain advanced Russian technology in exchange for providing conventional weapons to support Russia’s involvement in the conflict in Ukraine. However, both Russia and North Korea have denied these accusations.


Hyung-jin Kim, a writer for the Associated Press based in Seoul, South Korea, contributed to this report.