(ATTN: UPDATES with more details in paras 7, 12, 13; ADDS byline)
By Kim Soo-yeon
SEOUL, Nov. 6 (Yonhap) — North Korea appears to have been receiving technical assistance from Russia over the launch of a military spy satellite, and there is a “very high” chance for the North to press ahead with it once the country completes fixing technical glitches, South Korea’s unification minister said Monday.
Unification Minister Kim Yung-ho made the remark during a meeting with a group of reporters amid speculation that North Korea is in the final stage of its preparations to make a third attempt to put a military spy satellite into orbit after its failed attempts in May and August.
“It is hard to predict when North Korea will make the third attempt for the launch. But there seem to be signs of the North receiving technical assistance from Russia,” Kim said in a meeting marking his 100th day in office.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un traveled to Russia in September for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin amid speculation that they may have reached an arms deal for Moscow’s use in the war in Ukraine. In return, Kim appears to want Russia to transfer weapons technology, such as for a spy satellite and a nuclear-powered submarine.
Despite its earlier pledge to launch the satellite in October, North Korea appears to be holding it off, as the secretive regime seems to take technical support from Russia, Seoul’s top point man on Pyongyang said.
“There is a very high possibility that North Korea will make provocations once it completes making up for technical problems,” Kim said.
He stressed that Russia’s suspected transfer of satellite technology to the North is in violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions, warning that Seoul will closely cooperate with Washington to “strongly” respond to it.
In regard to the North’s leader daughter, believed to be named Ju-ae, the minister raised the need to leave open the possibility that she could be the successor to Kim Jong-un.
“Ju-ae has made public appearances 16 times. (The North’s leader) seems to have continued to bring her into the public eye in a bid to express a willingness to pursue a hereditary succession,” Kim said.
“The North’s latest designation of a ‘missile industry day’ is also apparently not irrelevant to Ju-ae’s emergence,” the minister noted.
North Korea said Sunday it has designated Nov. 18 as “missile industry day” to celebrate the successful launch of a Hwasong-17 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) last year.
On Nov. 18, 2022, Kim Jong-un inspected the test-firing of the Hwasong-17 ICBM, with Ju-ae, an event marking her first public appearance. Since then, her public activities have been focused on the military field, such as a military parade in February.
South Korea’s military said Monday there is a possibility that Pyongyang will launch the spy satellite on the occasion of the missile industry day. Some experts said North Korea seems to have designated the day to celebrate the first year of Ju-ae making her public appearance.