Third Time’s a Charm

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North Korea launched its first spy satellite this week, prompting neighboring South Korea to suspend parts of a 2018 military pact aimed at reducing tensions between the two countries, NBC News reported.

On Tuesday, Pyongyang launched the Malligyong-1 satellite on a Chollima-1 rocket from its west coast, the third launch this year following two earlier failures. South Korean military confirmed that the satellite entered orbit, but that officials are verifying whether the probe “(is) actually working.”

The launch comes in defiance of earlier warnings from the United States and its allies. The US, South Korea and Japan condemned the launch, which used ballistic missile technology in violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions.

North Korea countered that it has a “sovereign right” to develop spy satellites and other technologies to defend itself against what it considers to be military aggression by the US and its allies. It vowed to send up more satellites in the future.

A day after the launch, Seoul responded by suspending sections of the 2018 Comprehensive Military Agreement, signed between South Korea’s then-President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

The provisions included halting live-fire exercises in some areas, imposing no-fly zones and curtailing some aspects of surveillance. Supporters said the deal was part of Moon’s policy to improve relations between the two countries, and raised hopes that Pyongyang was working towards denuclearization.

But critics noted that it hindered Seoul’s ability to monitor North Korea’s activity near the border, especially as Pyongyang has increased its weapons testing in recent years.

Leif-Eric Easley, a professor of international studies at Ewha University in Seoul, said the suspension allows current conservative President Yoon Suk Yeol “to step away from the previous administration’s confidence-building measures that disproportionately benefited the Kim regime.”

However, he added that North Korea would use the pact’s suspension “as an excuse for further military provocations.”

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