North Korea Has Threatened to Launch Three More Spy Satellites in 2024

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Feb. 7 2024, Published 3:47 p.m. ET

A United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket lifts off at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station carrying a classified spy satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office.
Source: Getty Images

In December 2023, North Korea's supreme leader, Kim Jong Un, promised to fortify his country's nuclear weapons in case of war, as well as launch three spy satellites sometime in 2024, per Reuters.

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A spy satellite, also known as an intelligence satellite or reconnaissance satellite, is a spacecraft that is designed to spy on other countries, typically for intelligence or military purposes, according to Space.com.

What do Kim Jong Un's plans mean for the rest of the world? Here's what we know about the situation.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, former U.S. President Donald Trump, and South Korean President Moon Jae-in stand together inside the demilitarized zone separating South and North Korea in June 2019.
Source: Getty Images

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, former U.S. President Donald Trump, and South Korean President Moon Jae-in stand together inside the demilitarized zone separating South and North Korea in June 2019.

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North Korea will launch three spy satellites in 2024.

During a North Korea Workers' Party meeting in December 2023, Jong Un made the announcement that in 2024, North Korea will launch three spy satellites.

Citing U.S. military actions in South Korea that he perceived as making war a "realistic" possibility, Kim Jong Un vowed to ready the country's nuclear weapons in case they need to be deployed.

According to The Hill, the U.S. and South Korea have presented a united front against North Korea — and the relations between these two countries have led to increased military readiness in North Korea.

Additionally, spy satellite activity has become more frequent amid growing tensions between the U.S. and North Korea.

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For instance, in June 2023, the U.S. launched its penultimate Delta IV Heavy rocket, part of the NROL-68 mission. The launch aimed to provide military intelligence to the U.S., and the rocket's final launch is expected sometime in early 2024.

According to the The BBC, North Korea, not to be outdone, launched a spy satellite of its own in November 2023. The country claims that the satellite spied on various U.S. locales including the White House and air force bases.

This was North Korea's third attempt at a spy satellite launch — and first successful one, Space.com reported at the time.

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As North Korea reportedly surveils U.S. and South Korea military sites, tests long-range missiles, and in no uncertain terms declares its relations with South Korea untenable, according to The BBC, Kim's plans to launch an additional three spy satellites in 2024 makes the prospect of a "nuclear crisis" one to be taken seriously by world leaders.

Kim Gunn (C), special representative for Korean Peninsula Peace and Security, Namazu Hiroyuki, Japan's director-general and assistant minister of the Asian Oceanian Affairs Bureau, and Jung Pak (R), US senior official for North Korea, pose before their trilateral meeting at the Foreign Ministry in Seoul in January 2024.
Source: Getty Images

Kim Gunn (C), special representative for Korean Peninsula Peace and Security, Namazu Hiroyuki, Japan's director-general and assistant minister of the Asian Oceanian Affairs Bureau, and Jung Pak (R), US senior official for North Korea, pose before their trilateral meeting at the Foreign Ministry in Seoul in January 2024.

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North Korea's spy satellites could lead to war.

Ahead of any potential war between the U.S. and North Korea — and the two countries' respective allies — a veritable battle of words has seen world leaders threatening retaliation for whichever country tries to declare a war.

Per a November 2023 article by the Associated Press, by launching the military reconnaissance mission, North Korea defied the United Nations' ban on North Korea from performing such a launch.

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Referencing U.S.-South Korea relations, Jong Un said South Korea is “tainted by Yankee culture” according to the Associated Press. He further labeled the temperature of North Korea's relationship with its neighbor as one "between two hostile countries, two belligerents at war," per Reuters.

Additional reporting in January 2024 by CBS News revealed that Jong Un threatened to "thoroughly annihilate" the U.S. and South Korea if necessary.

Meanwhile, South Korea's defense ministry pledged, per Reuters, that "if North Korea attempts to use nuclear weapons against us, we will retaliate overwhelmingly."

Conversely, the U.S. is seemingly trying to avoid taking military action against North Korea. In January 2024, the U.S. Department of State stated that the U.S. "seeks dialogue with [North Korea] without preconditions and harbors no hostile intent."

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