The development of a military reconnaissance satellite was one of the key defence projects outlined by Kim in 2021.
In December 2022, North Korea said it had carried out an “important final-stage test” for the development of a spy satellite, which it said it would complete by April this year.
At the time, experts in South Korea quickly raised doubts about the results, saying the quality of black-and-white images released by North Korea – purportedly taken from a satellite – was poor.
Pyongyang has not provided a launch date, though last month Kim said the satellite would be sent up “at the planned date”.
North Korea declared itself an “irreversible” nuclear power last year, effectively ending the possibility of denuclearisation talks.
Pyongyang would struggle to do satellite reconnaissance with its own technology and without high-tech help from Russia or China, analysts say.
Still, “since North Korea’s reconnaissance satellites are an important factor in the event of a nuclear pre-emptive strike, they pose a significant threat to the South”, Yang Moo-jin, president of the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, told AFP last month.
Washington and Seoul have ramped up defence cooperation in response, staging joint military exercises with advanced stealth jets and high-profile US strategic assets.
North Korea views such exercises as rehearsals for invasion and described them as “frantic” drills “simulating an all-out war against” Pyongyang.