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Extending North Korea’s Satellite Ban

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When will North Korea launch its next satellite? There hasn’t been a launch since early 2016. Recently, boffins became interested in some new construction at North Korea’s satellite launch complex, which suggested a launch could be ready soon.

The failure of the recent US-North Korean summit in Hanoi to produce a positive result for North Korea could have also prompted a launch. And so we waited. This analyst expected that a launch could take place in time for North Korea’s recent parliamentary meeting and birthday celebrations for North Korea’s founding father, Kim Il-Sung. But nothing happened. Thus, it’s time to reconsider the state of North Korea’s satellite program.

In a recent article for SpaceDaily (“No New Satellite for North Korea”, April 2, 2019), this analyst suggested that biting economic pressures could make a satellite launch seem like a waste of money to the citizens of an impoverished state.

This analyst also suggested that holding back on a launch could also be an effort to appease US President Donald Trump, and boost future chances of loosening economic sanctions against the country. Such considerations remain valid, and recent statements from North Korea suggest that international politics could be the driving force in keeping North Korea’s launch vehicles grounded.

North Korea recently concluded its 14th Supreme People’s Assembly, a major political gathering where policies are announced. Given the opaque nature of North Korea’s government, such events are watched closely for clues. Sometimes, not much happens at such meetings. But these are now interesting times. One statement made in a speech by Chairman Kim is worthy of a great deal of attention.

Referring to relations with the United States, Mr Kim stated that he will wait until the end of this year for the US to “make a courageous decision”. Boffins are translating this statement to mean that North Korea is waiting for another summit with Donald Trump, and also some economic relief.

After that, if relations and sanctions still remain difficult, presumably something else could happen. Exactly what North Korea is considering is not specified. Speculation could include a variety of options, and they will not be explored here.

Let’s return to the near-term future. If North Korea plans to give more time for negotiations to take place, then it also seems reasonable to assume that they will avoid provocations. North Korea has cited its recent moratorium on nuclear and missile tests as acts of good faith, hoping that such actions would improve its chances of scoring a deal.

A breaking of this moratorium would weaken North Korea’s case in any future negotiations. While satellite launches are not as bellicose as weapons tests, they could be seen as tests of missile components. So a moratorium on satellite launches seems to be bundled in this overall strategy.

Thus, it seems most unlikely that North Korea will stage a satellite launch this year. Exactly when the next North Korean satellite launch will be attempted is hard to estimate. But events can change rapidly in this strategically perilous part of the world.

Dr Morris Jones is an Australian space analyst who has written for since 1999. Email Replace NOSPAM with @ to send email.

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Trump floats idea of third North Korea summit

Washington (AFP) April 11, 2019

US President Donald Trump said Thursday he is considering a potential third nuclear summit with North Korea’s leader.

“We will be discussing that and potential meetings, further meetings with North Korea and Kim Jong Un,” Trump said in the Oval Office at the start of talks with South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

A third summit would follow on Trump’s historic breakthrough last year, when he met Kim in Singapore, and a follow-up this February in Hanoi that ended without progress in getting North … read more

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