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North Korea-Japan enmity going hypersonic

Japan and North Korea have stepped up their arms race to another level, a tit-for-tat escalation with big implications for regional security and stability.

On one side, North Korea has tested a hypersonic weapon and has announced plans to launch a constellation of spy satellites. On the other, Japan is testing its next-generation missile defense radar, expediting cruise missile purchases and mulling upgrades to its alliance with the United States.

Newsweek and others have reported that North Korea plans to launch several spy satellites by the end of this year, marking the 11th anniversary of its space industry. This month’s spy satellite launch follows North Korea’s successful launch of its first surveillance satellite, the Malligyong-1, last November.

North Korea’s National Aerospace Technology Administration Deputy Director General Pak Kyong So said that Malligyong-1 showed the progress the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea has made in strengthening national defense by conquering outer space. He added that “several” more reconnaissance satellites are planned for this year.

North Korea’s satellites enable it to identify, track and surveil South Korean, US, and Japanese forces, assets and countermeasures both on the peninsula and the broader region. The Newsweek article notes that North Korea’s reconnaissance abilities have improved due to its cooperation with Russia, which has improved since the Ukraine war.

North Korea’s planned spy satellite constellation may also substantially improve its targeting capabilities. Pyongyang has also been actively testing hypersonic missiles, the next logical step in the progression of its formidable missile arsenal.

Building on those intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance (ISR) and