Increased US-ROK space military cooperation detrimental to regional stability


China Military Online
Huang Panyue
2024-04-15 18:01:28

By Ji Cheng


The Republic of Korea (ROK) Defense Ministry recently announced that the country's second military spy satellite was successfully launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida of the US. Like the first spy satellite launched by the ROK in December last year, this satellite was sent into orbit by a US Falcon 9 carrier rocket. The frequent interactions between the ROK and the US in military satellite launching indicate that the space military cooperation between the two countries has transitioned into a normalized and institutionalized phase.


According to the ROK Defense Ministry, the country will achieve the target of deploying four synthetic aperture radar satellites and one optical reconnaissance satellite in space around 2025. The successful launch of the second military spy satellite is a significant milestone in its implementation of this plan. Upon being deployed in place, the satellite can coordinated with the first one previously launched to further elevate the ROK military's intelligence collection, reconnaissance and surveillance capabilities.


Furthermore, the ROK military schedules to launch 10 to 20 small spy satellites between 2026 and 2028 as well as about 40 micro spy satellites between 2028 and 2030 to weave a dense satellite network for enhanced reconnaissance frequency and efficiency.


Since the Yoon Suk-yeol administration took office, the ROK and the US have seen expedited alignment in multiple aspects including threat perception, policy coordination and practical operations, and also a tendency to accelerate their cooperation in the space military domain. These include various considerations on both sides.


In the view of the ROK, expanding its space military strength through its reliance on the US resources is the optimized option for addressing the two major issues of strengthening national military strength and fostering close relations with the US. On the one hand, integrating the space military cooperation into the scope of the security cooperation with the US and building joint space military capabilities are beneficial for the ROK to maintain the upper hand in the games against key opponents. On the other hand, reinforcing space military cooperation with the US can further manifest the specialty of the ROK-US relationship. The ROK tries to strengthen strategic ties with the US to elevate itself from the status of a middle power.


In contrast, upholding the Cold War mentality, the US has made sustained efforts to promote space militarization by brazenly designating space as a domain of combat with the establishment of Space Command and Space Force and vigorously developing and deploying offensive space weapons such as directed energy weapons and anti-satellite communication systems. Meanwhile, the US woos its allies to engage in intelligence cooperation in the space field. To maintain its hegemony, the US has carried out space military collaborations in multiple areas with the ROK. In December 2022, the US formally deployed a Space Force unit in the ROK by citing the nuclear and missile threats posed by regional security, and the ROK responded with the establishment of the Space Operations Squadron to enhance communication and coordination with the US Space Force unit.


To promote the so-called "great power competition", the US has been providing substantial assistance for its allied countries to bolster the development of space military strength. Some ROK politicians blindly emphasize military entanglements with the US in disregard of their special identity as a party directly concerned with the Korean Peninsula issue and even regional security. These irresponsible actions are detrimental to regional stability and will gravely impact the international security situation.


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