Russian experts were guiding North Korea's space program ahead of Pyongyang blowing up its latest satellite: South Korean report

Russian experts were guiding North Korea's space program ahead of Pyongyang blowing up its latest satellite: South Korean report
  • North Korea's latest satellite launch failed in a fireball in the sky on Monday evening.

  • That comes after South Korean media reported that Russia was helping Pyongyang's space program.

  • Yonhap reported that a "large number" of Russian experts entered North Korea ahead of the launch.

North Korea announced on Monday that its latest spy satellite launch ended in the explosion of its rocket just minutes after liftoff — a third failure in its last four attempts to put a satellite into orbit.

And that was despite Russian space experts recently arriving to guide North Korea's space program, South Korean news agency Yonhap reported a day before the failed launch, citing a senior defense official who was not named.

Yonhap wrote that a "large number" of Russian technicians had entered North Korea after Russian leader Vladimir Putin last year offered to support Pyongyang with its satellite launches.

It's unclear exactly how many technicians were sent to North Korea, when they might have arrived, or how they might have advised Pyongyang.

The senior South Korean defense official told the agency that the Russian experts likely had high standards, causing a delay between North Korea's last satellite launch and preparations for Monday's attempt.

Yonhap reported that North Korea's space rockets also likely face issues with their second and third-stage engines.

That could forewarn even deeper problems in Pyongyang's space program; the explosion at Monday's launch occurred during the rocket's first stage of flight.

North Korean state media cited a space official saying that preliminary investigations showed the rocket's new liquid oxygen and petroleum engine was to blame. However, he also said there may have been other reasons for the launch failure.

Roscosmos, Russia's space agency, and the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not immediately respond to requests for comment sent outside regular business hours by Business Insider.

Russia and North Korea's relationship has come under scrutiny in the past year after the US accused them of trading arms and materials deployed in the war in Ukraine.

Per the accusations from the US and its allies, Moscow has been sending raw materials, food, and technical expertise to Pyongyang in exchange for shipments of artillery ammunition and missiles that Ukraine reports seeing on the battlefield.

South Korea has for months said that North Korea's sole successful satellite launch of 2023 came off the back of Russian assistance.

Pyongyang launched the Malligyong-1 in November and claims it is still functioning, though Seoul said in February that it detected the satellite is no longer communicating with the ground.

Some international experts, however, said that month that they've seen signs of activity from the Malligyong-1.

North Korea's repeated satellite launches come as a concern for the US and its allies, who have tried to limit its nuclear weapons and space programs through sweeping sanctions. Pyongyang's repeated testing of ballistics and space launches indicates that it's been able to persist despite the global restrictions.

The US Indo-Pacific Command noted that Pyongyang's Monday launch appeared to use technology related to North Korea's ballistic missile program. It condemned the launch as a "brazen violation" of United Nations resolutions that could destabilize regional security.

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