North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspected a completed military spy satellite this week as concerns mount that Pyongyang may prepare to launch the spacecraft using banned technology in the coming weeks.
The dictator was seen touring the site with his daughter dressed in white lab coats Tuesday as they spoke with scientists in his first public appearance in a month.
Kim approved an unspecified "future action plan" as experts prepare for a launch that some analysts believe could happen in the next few weeks.
Though Pyongyang has routinely defied international law when it comes to ballistic missile testing and nuclear development, it plans to take it one step further and use long-range missile technology that has been banned under U.N. Security Council resolutions.
Kim has argued that the satellite is necessary for space-based reconnaissance and in countering the U.S. and South Korea – which have ramped up joint military exercises in the face of increased aggression and illegal missile testing in North Korea.
Though Pyongyang’s space capabilities remain dubious.
Some South Korean analysts have reportedly argued that the satellite revealed in images by North Korea’s state-controlled media is too small and insufficient to capture high-resolution imagery from space.
North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency said Wednesday that the satellite was ready to be loaded onto a rocket after having been inspected and tested on its abilities to withstand space’s environmental factors.
South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said its northern neighbor had yet to inform international maritime and telecommunication authorities of any impending launch.
"The announcing of the satellite launch plan shows yet again that the North Korean regime is preoccupied with continuing its illegal provocations while ignoring the plight of its people," the ministry said in a statement.
North Korea has launched roughly 100 missiles since the start of 2022, and its latest push to launch a satellite into space is just one of Kim’s top priority items.
He also has vowed to develop solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missiles, nuclear-powered submariners, hypersonic missiles and multi-warhead missiles.
Japan has also taken steps to prepare for a potential Pyongyang satellite launch and last month its military activated missile interceptors and ordered its troops to shoot down any satellite fragments that may fall on its territory.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.