North Korea’s space launch program and long-range missile projects

SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea launched a rocket late on Tuesday carrying what it called a reconnaissance satellite, prompting South Korea to suspend a key part of a military pact it had signed in 2018 with Pyongyang to de-escalate tensions on the Korean peninsula.

North Korea’s launch, its third attempt after two failures this year, came two months after its leader, Kim Jong Un, met Russian President Vladimir Putin, who offered to help Pyongyang build a satellite.

The following is a timeline of North Korea’s space program, satellite launches and development of rocket technology.

Aug. 31, 1998: North Korea begins its space program by launching a Kwangmyongsong-1 satellite on a Paektusan rocket from the Tonghae Satellite Launching Ground near the east coast. Pyongyang declares it a success, but U.S. officials say it broke up over the Pacific Ocean.

April 5, 2009: Then-leader Kim Jong Il oversees the launch of the Kwangmyongsong-2 satellite from the Tonghae complex, but it again fails and crashes in the ocean. State media suggest that 14 North Korean soldiers were killed during the launch.

April 13, 2012: The Kwangmyongsong-3 satellite is launched from the newly completed Sohae Satellite Launching Station in the western region. Foreign media are invited to observe the launch, which once again is unsuccessful.

Dec. 12, 2012: North Korea successfully launches a second version of the Kwangmyongsong-3, putting an object in orbit. While the North claims it to be an observation satellite, it is not believed to carry a functioning transmission system.

April 2013: North Korea establishes the National Aerospace Development Administration (NADA) which purports to pursue space exploration for peaceful purposes.

Feb. 7, 2016: North Korea launches a satellite. The United States calls it a disguised test of an engine powerful enough to launch an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). International observers say the satellite appears to be under control, but there is lingering debate over whether it sent any transmissions.

Aug. 24, 2016: Hyon Kwang-il, director of scientific research at NADA, says “our aerospace scientists will conquer space and definitely plant the flag of North Korea on the moon.”

June 23, 2016: North Korea says it successfully tested an intermediate range ballistic missile (IRBM), with a range of 2,000 to 3,400 miles (3,200-5,400 km).

July 4, 2017: North Korea tests an ICBM for the first time, which it says has the potential to reach the continental United States. The missile, Hwasong-14, is tested again three weeks later.

Jan. 13, 2021: During a party congress, Kim Jong Un reveals a wish list that includes developing military reconnaissance satellites.

Dec. 19, 2022: North Korea says it has conducted a “final phase” test for the development of a spy satellite at the Sohae launch station.

March 16, 2023: North Korea test-launches the Hwasong-17 ICBM, its biggest missile, which some analysts believe incorporates technology for space launch vehicles.

May 25, 2023: Construction and preparations at the Sohae launch station are moving forward at a “remarkable pace,” a U.S.-based think tank says.

May 29, 2023: North Korea notifies Japan and the International Maritime Organization of a plan to launch a satellite between May 31 and June 11.

May 31, 2023: North Korea attempts to launch a reconnaissance satellite, but the rocket plunges into the sea.

July 5, 2023: South Korea’s military says it retrieved the wreckage of the spy satellite from the sea, and found it had no meaningful military use as a reconnaissance platform.

Aug. 22, 2023: North Korea notifies Japan it will launch a satellite between Aug. 24 and Aug. 31 and the rocket will fly over the waters west of the Korean peninsula, the East China Sea and the Pacific.

Aug. 24, 2023: North Korea makes a second attempt to put a spy satellite in orbit, but it fails when the rocket booster experiences a problem. North Korea’s spy agency says it was not a major issue and vows to try another launch in October.

Sept. 13, 2023: Putin says Moscow will help North Korea build satellites during a tour he gives to Kim Jong Un of Russia’s modern space station in eastern Russia. Neither leader elaborates.

Nov. 21, 2023: North Korea notifies Japan of its plan to launch a satellite between Nov. 22 and Dec. 1, according to Japan’s Coast Guard.

Nov. 21, 2023: North Korea launches a rocket and said it successfully put a reconnaissance satellite in orbit about an hour ahead of the start of the time window it gave notice. The move prompted South Korea to suspend a part of a military agreement it had signed with the North in 2018 and resume surveillance flights near the inter-Korean border.

(Reporting by Jack Kim, Josh Smith and Ed Davies, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)