Air and Space: The New Frontier of Conflict on the Korean Peninsula | Space

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ROK Air Force performing routine air patrol. (Source: ROKAF)

The Korean Peninsula, a region long fraught with geopolitical tensions, is experiencing a significant escalation in military conflict, marked by a complex interplay of strategic maneuvers and technological advancements. One of the key factors of this escalation is the suspension of the September 19 Agreement on the Implementation of the Historic Panmunjom Declaration in the Military Domain (also referred to as the Comprehensive Military Agreement or CMA), a pivotal accord designed to mitigate military hostilities between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK or North Korea) and the Republic of Korea (ROK or South Korea). Its suspension has not only symbolized a breakdown in diplomatic efforts, but also catalyzed an arms race, extending the conflict beyond traditional boundaries to include the realms of air and space.

The trajectory of tensions on the Korean Peninsula, particularly from 2023 through early 2024, has witnessed an unprecedented arms race characterized by intense competition for surveillance supremacy, with the proliferation of drones and spy satellites playing a pivotal role. It underscores the urgent necessity for nuanced policy interventions regarding surveillance technologies to stave off a catastrophic plunge into military conflict.

Suspension of the Comprehensive Military Agreement and Escalating Tensions

The CMA, once seen as a cornerstone in preventing military conflicts on the Korean Peninsula, has now crumbled. South Korea’s accusations that North Korea’s satellite launches violate the agreement have ignited a complex political and military dilemma. Ironically, some South Korean defense officials argued that the no-fly zones, initially conceived as measures to maintain peace, have instead hindered South Korea’s aerial reconnaissance capabilities, thereby exposing vulnerabilities in its national security. Following North Korea’s satellite launch late…

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