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Japan’s ballistic missile protection system has been placed on alert after North Korea notified it of an impending satellite tv for pc launch between Might 31 and June 11. The preparation additionally got here with a warning: any projectile posing a menace to Japan’s territory can be shot down.

Each time Pyongyang needs to launch a satellite tv for pc in orbit, the planet is placed on edge. Again in 2012, the launch of the earth-observation satellite tv for pc Kwangmyongsong-3 brought on a global outcry, triggering fears that it was a cloaked missile take a look at. The launch of its successor in 2016 earned related international condemnation.

The fears are usually not misplaced. For over 60 years, North Korea has tried to beef up its nuclear program and missile capabilities. Simply final yr the hermit state examined a document variety of projectiles, with 2023 additionally kicking off with a collection of missile launches. A satellite tv for pc launch within the coming weeks, as Pyongyang is now indicating, won’t solely give it a possibility to check the nation’s area rocket know-how and make it a formidable navy pressure, it’s going to even be a violation of U.N. protocols on the usage of long-range missile know-how.

Learn Extra: Monitoring All of North Korea’s Missile Checks This 12 months So Far

North Korea’s state media launched pictures of Kim checking the satellite tv for pc, which observers imagine to be a rudimentary system able to transmitting photographs. Uk Yang, a navy professional on the Asan Institute for Coverage Research in Seoul, nonetheless, believes the decision of these photographs is inadequate for high-quality reconnaissance.

As for the extra payload, Yang says the satellite tv for pc seems sufficiently small–he estimates it’s about 90 cm. lengthy—and unlikely to serve any perform aside from reconnaissance. “If they need one other perform, they should shoot one other satellite tv for pc,” he tells TIME.

However with a lot of the knowledge coming from state media, Yang believes Pyongyang can simply lie about what they’re sending into outer area, including that “there’s no credibility of their actions within the worldwide sense.”

Apart from Japan, South Korea additionally condemned the satellite tv for pc’s scheduled deployment and urged its neighbor to “withdraw its unlawful launch plan instantly” or face penalties, in line with a authorities assertion.

A TV display reveals a file picture of North Korean chief Kim Jong Un, third from left, in Seoul, South Korea, on Monday, Might 29, 2023.

Ahn Younger-joon—AP Picture

Supreme Chief Kim Jong Un is, nonetheless, unperturbed by the worldwide opprobrium. When Kim visited the reconnaissance satellite tv for pc website on Might 16, he asserted that the spacecraft was “an pressing requirement of the prevailing safety surroundings”—alluding to the growing presence of the U.S. within the Indo-Pacific and its bettering navy alliance with South Korea. It’s not the one know-how Kim needs to develop–additionally on the playing cards are hypersonic missiles, intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) fueled with strong propellants and and nuclear-powered submarines.

However on high of bettering Pyongyang’s navy know-how, the launch can also be a “status venture” for Kim, says Michael Raska, assistant professor on the S. Rajaratnam College of Worldwide Research in Singapore. “He has to indicate the North Koreans that they’re making progress,” Raska tells TIME, including that the launch could be seen as a “signaling of status that may enhance Kim’s credibility internally.”

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