South Korean officials said they have successfully test-fired a solid-fuel space rocket for the first time, a major step towards acquiring space surveillance capability, amid speculation that North Korea could soon conduct a nuclear test after launching a long-range missile.
According to the South’s Defense Ministry, the launch on Wednesday was an “important milestone” in the country’s ability to monitor its neighbor.
“The success of the test launch of this solid-propelled space launch vehicle is an important milestone in strengthening the defense power of our military’s independent space-based surveillance and reconnaissance field at a very critical time,” the ministry said.
The defense ministry also said that the space rocket test “came at a very grave juncture in which North Korea has recently breached its moratorium and launched an ICBM.”
Wednesday’s launch took place six days after North Korea said it carried out its first intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) test since 2017, the latest in a series of weapons tests since the start of the year.
South Korea currently has no military reconnaissance satellites and depends on the United States spy satellites to monitor strategic facilities in North Korea.
In 2020, Seoul secured US permission to use solid fuel for space launch vehicles, removing a 20-year mutually-agreed restriction over concerns that the use of the technology could lead to bigger missiles and trigger a regional arms race.
Last year, the United States lifted other remaining restrictions allowing South Korea to develop missiles with unlimited ranges.
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