The communist propaganda outlet of North Korea claimed on Tuesday that an alleged surveillance satellite launched on November 21 had already taken photos of several sensitive American military sites and the White House.
The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), the flagship media network of the communist North Korean regime, reported that dictator Kim Jong-un spent much of his day on Tuesday perusing a report on the “Malligyong-1” surveillance satellite, whose launch prompted stern condemnations from South Korea, America, and the United Nations. The satellite reportedly took photos of several sites in the United States and abroad.
“The respected Comrade Kim Jong Un saw the satellite photos of Rome of Italy taken at 17:56:28 on Nov. 25 (Pyongyang Time) and Anderson Air Force Base taken above Guam in the Pacific at 09:17:07 on Nov. 27 (Pyongyang Time) and pilot satellite images of other regions,” KCNA claimed.
In the U.S. mainland, Kim reportedly saw photos “in detail” of “the Norfolk Naval Station, the Newport News Dockyard and an airfield of Virginia, U.S., taken at 23:35:53 on Nov. 27 and the White House and the Pentagon of Washington and other objects at 23:36:25 on Nov. 27.” In an apparent attempt to verify that the photos exist, KCNA claimed that “four U.S. Navy nuclear carriers and one British aircraft carrier” were in the photos.
Kim expressed “great satisfaction” with the project, the propaganda network claimed.
North Korea notably did not publish any of the images and made dubious claims surrounding the functionality of the spy satellite almost immediately after South Korean officials confirmed its launch. Pyongyang claimed that it had photos of American military facilities in Guam less than 24 hours after the rocket carrying the satellite launched, a declaration South Korean officials dismissed as an “exaggeration.”
Kim Jong-un, according to North Korean state media, declared shortly after the launch that he had plans for “many more reconnaissances satellites” to “closely monitor and grasp the nature … of the U.S. imperialists.”
“The launch of reconnaissance satellite is a legitimate right of the DPRK [North Korea] for strengthening its self-defensive capabilities and it will make a significant contribution to definitely ramping up the war preparedness of the armed forces,” KCNA said at the time, “in conformity with the security environment created in and around the country owing to the enemies’ dangerous military moves.”
The “Malligyong-1” has caused significant consternation in South Korea and among American and U.N. officials, as reconnaissance satellites of this kind are sanctioned under U.N. law. The potential involvement of the Russian government has also prompted irritation and alarm, as North Korea had attempted two prior launches of the satellite with no success, but launched the Malligyong-1 after Kim personally visited one of Russia’s top space launch facilities, the Vostochny Cosmodrome, in September. The stop was part of a tour of western Russia that included an in-person meeting with Russian strongman Vladimir Putin and was the longest Kim had been outside of North Korea since taking over for late father Kim Jong-il in 2011.
“The leader of the DPRK [North Korea] shows great interest in rocket engineering. They are also trying to develop space,” Putin said at the time.
Neither North Korea nor Russia has given any indication of direct Russian involvement in the launch of the satellite, but Seoul officials have not disguised their suspicions.
“In the first and second attempt, (the rocket) crashed due to engine issues, but the engine was successful this time,” South Korean Defense Minister Shin Won-sik told the country’s KBS radio station last week. “Putin’s offer to help appears to not have been empty words.”
A U.N. Security Council meeting on Monday turned tense as North Korea chose to send a representative to defend the launch of the satellite, leading to intense exchanges between the Pyongyang representative and America’s envoy.
“The DPRK is unabashedly trying to advance its nuclear weapons delivery systems by testing ballistic missile technology in clear violation of this council’s resolutions. This reckless unlawful behavior threatens all of the DPRK’s neighbors and all member states,” American Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said. The spy satellite technology can be used to similarly develop ballistic missiles and thus falls under U.N. weapons sanctions.
The North Korean envoy, Kim Song, insisted that his country had the “legitimate right” to launch satellites, and that it had done so in the context of being at war with the United States.
“The relation between the DPRK [North Korea] and the United States is not merely a relation between unfriendly countries,” Kim said, according to the Korea JoongAng Daily. “[They are relations] between belligerent [countries] which are at war in status, technically, legally, practically for seven decades.”
North and South Korea – and their respective allies, China and America – have technically been locked in a formal state of war since 1950. The active hostilities of the Korean War ended in 1953 with an armistice agreement, but neither side surrendered or signed a peace treaty, so the war remains technically active.
Thomas-Greenfield dismissed the need for North Korea to protect itself from a preemptive American bombing as “paranoia.”