Does North Korea Have A Functioning Spy Satellite? The West Has Its Doubts
Pyongyang has declared it has got its eyes on the White House thanks to its new spy satellite. But anyone these days can clap eyes on the official residence of the US president using Google Earth and internet livestreams. So why is Kim Jong-un making a big deal of this?
There are still significant doubts over whether the North’s satellite is working at all. The regime says it is up and running, but the West has its doubts. The US, Japan and South Korea say only that they know the satellite is in orbit. Still, Kim has been happily sharing the alleged results.
Understanding The Tactical And Strategic Meaning
Reports put out by state media on Tuesday Trumpeted a list of targets Pyongyang says it has seen, including the White House and the Pentagon. Closer to home, the North also listed South Korean military targets. Further afield: Rome in Italy.
The scope might seem impressive at first, but there may be less to the spy satellite than meets the eye. And if we know one thing about North Korea, it’s that it is a country that “lies all the time”, says Fyodor Tertitskiy of Kookmin University in Seoul.
But if it is the case that the spy satellite is functioning, experts believe the content could be of pretty poor quality. “So even if it can see the White House, it has no tactical usage,” said UK Yang of the Asan Institute for Policy Studies in Seoul.
“Big Leap For Them Going From Zero To Something”
But Yang noted the “satellite has its strategic meaning” as it can identify targets for nuclear strikes despite the low resolution. The regime has long defended its satellite programme, arguing having it is a sovereign right, said Prof Leif-Eric Easley of Ewha University in Seoul.
For the North, having eyes in the sky has also been a political goal – especially when the West has been able to surveil its territory for decades. Dave Schmerler of the James Martin Centre for Nonproliferation Studies says he thinks “it’s a big leap for them going from zero to something.”