South Korea is reportedly considering using an Israeli spy satellite to peek at North Korea’s military and nuclear facilities as it ramps up its defense capabilities in response to threats from Pyongyang.
A South Korean Ministry of National Defense official said last week the country was looking to foreign intelligence agencies to provide information on North Korean activities, as it will take several years for the country to develop its own surveillance satellites, the Yonhap News Agency reported.
Seoul has become increasingly concerned after North Korea conducted five nuclear tests in the last ten years, several recently, and a series of missile tests, including of intermediate-range ballistic missiles.
According to a report on the Ynet news website on Saturday, Israel’s Ofek 11 spy satellite could be in position to provide information on North Korea.
Israel and South Korea lie on similar latitudes, between 30 and 40 degrees north of the equator. The orbit trajectory of Ofek 11, which was launched in September and experienced some initial technical difficulties, carries it over the Korean region where its sophisticated monitoring equipment could be directed at North Korean facilities.
“The military is expected to have its own surveillance satellites as early as 2023 that will allow Seoul to closely monitor military activities in North Korea,” the South Korean official said.
“It is years behind the defense ministry’s original schedule to deploy five surveillance satellites between 2021 and 2022 as part of the country’s ‘kill chain’ strike system to deal with missile threats from the North,” the official added.
South Korea currently relies on US satellites for information about North Korean nuclear and missile sites.
Aside from its spying capabilities, the Israel satellite would also offer images of sites from different angles than those provided by the US orbiters, boosting the intelligence value of the information, the report said.
South Korea was also looking to buy German-made KEPD-350K cruise missiles which have a range of 500 kilometers, putting the North Korean capital within striking distance.
In August 2014, a top defense official told Israel’s Army Radio that South Korea is one of several countries interested in purchasing the Iron Dome missile defense system.
Yedidia Yaari, CEO of Iron Dome manufacturer Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd., said that the system’s high success rate had piqued foreign interest, Reuters reported at the time.
The short-range missile defense system, developed with American funding, had been highly effective in the 2014 round of violence between Israel and Hamas, intercepting hundreds of rockets headed toward major population centers in Israel.