South Korea will test its first domestically produced space rocket today.
The KSLV-2 space vehicle will carry a dummy payload into orbit in the first of four test launches to ensure its reliability. If successful, the rocket will enable South Korea to independently launch satellites. Satellite capabilities are a key cornerstone of Seoul’s recent $13.6 billion space defense investment, with South Korea looking to place its own surveillance satellites into orbit.
This launch is part of a general military buildup in South Korea aimed at expanding the country’s military capabilities independent of the US. The buildup nevertheless has active American support: the US has provided technical support to the satellite program, and rescinded a ban on South Korea developing extra-peninsular ballistic missiles in August.
Dovish Korean President Moon Jae-in sees the buildup as largely aimed at transferring operational control of forces on the peninsula in the event of conflict with the North to South Korea. However, the US likely sees the advantage of a well-armed ally in the region as Chinese military expansion continues.
Expect the US to continue aiding and encouraging South Korean military buildup, as it checks China with negligible political and financial cost to Washington.
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Connor is a Content Editor and Analyst on the Daily Brief team and a member of the Communications team. His primary research focus is Latin America