Following the November 21 launch of a surveillance satellite by North Korea, Japan is facing an increased military threat. The U.S Space Force has confirmed that the satellite is in orbit, although its capabilities are still unknown. North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un has expressed his celebration of the country’s “new era of space power” and has promised to launch more satellites in the future.
In response, Defense Minister Kihara Minoru stated that the Japanese government is analyzing the satellite’s performance capacity and has acknowledged that it could signify North Korea’s advancing military technology, posing a threat to regional and international security. Kihara emphasized the need for Japan to strengthen its space operation capacity and develop a system for space superiority within the next decade.
The United Nations Security Council has been divided over how to address North Korea’s actions. An emergency meeting held in response to the satellite launch failed to produce a U.N. resolution due to vetoes from China and Russia. North Korea has stated that the satellite is intended to monitor the military activities of the United States and other countries, justifying it as a “lawful right to self-defense.”
Despite U.N. sanctions on North Korea’s ballistic missile and nuclear programs, which include a ban on the development of ballistic missiles, Russia and China defended the satellite launch, preventing any unanimous action by the Security Council.
The satellite launch has prompted Japan to look to China for cooperation on addressing North Korea’s military advancements. The foreign ministers of Japan, China, and South Korea met to discuss the satellite launch, with Japan emphasizing the importance of cooperation with China in addressing North Korea’s missile and nuclear weapons programs. The ministers also pledged to speed up groundwork for a trilateral summit.
Despite condemnation from Japan, the United States, and South Korea, existing sanctions and deterrence have not been successful in curbing North Korea’s technological advancements. Japan may need to consider engaging with its closest neighbors to navigate around the diplomatic stalemate and address the risk of aggressive moves by North Korea.