SEOUL, Nov 20 (AP): South Korea's military warned North Korea not to go ahead with its planned spy satellite launch, suggesting Monday that Seoul could suspend an inter-Korean agreement to reduce tensions and resume front-line aerial surveillance in response.
North Korea failed in its first two attempts to put a military spy satellite into orbit earlier this year and didn't follow through with a vow to make a third attempt in October. South Korean officials said the delay was likely because North Korea is receiving Russian technology assistance and that a launch could happen in coming days.
"Our military will come up with necessary measures to protect the lives and safety of the people, if North Korea pushes ahead with a military spy satellite launch despite our warning," a senior South Korean military officer, Kang Hopil, said in a televised statement.
South Korean Defense Minister Shin Wonsik said in an interview with public broadcaster KBS on Sunday the launch was expected later this month and that South Korean and U.S. authorities were monitoring North Korea's moves.
The U.N. Security Council bans any satellite launches by North Korea because it views them as a disguised test of its missile technology. Kang said while North Korea needs a spy satellite to improve its monitoring of South Korea, the launch is also aimed at bolstering its long-range missile program.
Foreign governments and experts say North Korea is seeking Russian technologies to enhance its nuclear and other military capabilities in return for supplying conventional arms to support Russia's war in Ukraine.
Both Moscow and Pyongyang have dismissed as groundless the alleged arms transfer deal, but both nations - locked in separate, protracted tensions with the United States - have been openly pushing to expand their cooperation in recent months.
In September, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un traveled to Russia to meet President Vladimir Putin in Cosmodrome, Russia's most important domestic space launch center.
When Putin was asked by Russia's state media whether his country would help the North build satellites, he said that "that's why we have come here. The (North Korean) leader shows keen interest in rocket technology."
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