North Korea’s missile programme and China’s accelerating space programme have increased interest in Japan and South Korea’s space activities. Japan successfully launched its first satellite carried on an indigenous rocket in February 2005 after several failures throughout the 1990s, and South Korea successfully launched a satellite into orbit in January 2013.
Satellite launches are extremely similar to ballistic missile launches and employ much of the same technology. Japan’s and South Korea’s abilities to successfully launch a satellite indicate the probable ability of each state to launch long-range ballistic missiles with WMD payloads. While both Japan and South Korea are politically prohibited from launching long-range ballistic missiles (Japan by its self-defense constitution and ROK by its agreements with the Americans), each state could probably develop long-range missiles using existing satellite technology should their political inclinations shift in that direction.