North Korea has informed that appropriate United Nations agencies that they intend to carry out the launch of a “earth observation satellite” later this month, putting the launch window between February 8 and 25. The satellite is intended to function for four years.
South Korea and the US both expressed outrage at the planned launch, with South Korean officials vowing to make the north pay “searing consequences” for daring to launch the satellite, while US officials accused the North of violating UN bans.
North Korea is not, of course, forbidden from putting satellites in orbit. Rather, the US and associated nations have tried to extend the UN ban on them launching ballistic missiles to include rockets, claiming all such launches amount to an attempted “missile test.”
White House officials termed the potential launch as a “destabilizing provocation,” saying that putting a non-military satellite in orbit would be an “egregious violation” of North Korea’s obligations, threatening broad new sanctions.
US threats of sanctions against North Korea are not new, of course, but in practice the huge amount of sanctions already in place means the US has very limited options in restricting anything else.