SEOUL (Reuters) – After decades of satellite surveillance by foreign governments and analysts, North Korea has sent its first spy satellite into global orbit with a message to the world: We can watch you, too.
North Korean state media said on Tuesday that leader Kim Jong Un reviewed spy satellite images of the White House, the Pentagon and US aircraft carriers at Norfolk Naval Base.
North Korea last week successfully launched its first reconnaissance satellite, which it said was designed to monitor the military movements of the United States and South Korea.
Since then, state media have reported that the satellite has photographed cities and military bases in South Korea, Guam and Italy, as well as the US capital.
“Remember when you got that toy you always wanted for Christmas and you were so excited that you wanted to tell everyone about it?” Chad O’Carroll, founder of the North Korea-focused website NK News, said about KCNA’s reporting in a post on X.
So far, Pyongyang has not released any images, leaving analysts and foreign governments to debate how capable the new satellite actually is.
South Korea said on Tuesday that the November 30 launch of its first spy satellite on a US Falcon 9 rocket would be delayed due to weather. She said that the capabilities of North Korean satellites could not be verified.
Dave Schmerler, a satellite imagery expert at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, said there is no reason to doubt that the satellite can see the areas or large warships that North Korea has claimed it can see. Even a medium-resolution camera could provide Pyongyang with This ability. (The central nervous system).
“But how useful these images are depends on what they want to use them for,” he added.
For medium-resolution satellites to be useful in any conflict, North Korea would need to launch more to allow frequent passes over key sites, a goal the North Korean space agency has said it is seeking to achieve, Schmerler said.
“It’s a big leap for them to go from nothing to something, but until we can see the images they’re collecting, we’re speculating about their use cases,” he said.
Jeffrey Lewis, another central nervous system researcher, said the photo released by state media of Kim examining satellite images with his daughter suggests it may be panchromatic, a type of black-and-white photography that is sensitive to all wavelengths of visible light.
North Korea released panchromatic images of downtown Seoul after launching a missile in December 2022 in what it said was a test of controlling the satellite, taking images and downloading data for the ultimate military reconnaissance satellite.
Tuesday’s images were the latest in a series of images of what KCNA described as “key target areas.”
Kim also inspected satellite images of Andersen Air Base in the US western Pacific territory of Guam, a US shipyard and an air base in Norfolk and Newport, where four nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and a British aircraft carrier were spotted, KCNA said.
Commercial images of those cities on November 27, the day North Korea said it took their photos, were not immediately available.
The United States and South Korea condemned the satellite launch as a violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions prohibiting any use of ballistic technology.
Reporting by Hyunhee Shin, editing by Chris Reese, Sandra Maler and Gerry Doyle
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