(Bloomberg) -- A large number of Russian experts went to North Korea to help with its spy satellite development, South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reported, as Pyongyang looks set to soon try to put another reconnaissance probe into orbit.

Russia dispatched the experts after President Vladimir Putin met leader Kim Jong Un in September and pledged to help North Korea with its space program, Yonhap reported Sunday, citing a senior defense official it did not name. 

North Korea has conducted multiple rocket engine tests since then, likely to meet the standards of the visiting Russian technicians, Yonhap cited the official as saying. The report did not say how many Russian experts have visited or when exactly any visit took place. 

South Korean Ministry of Defense officials were not immediately available for comment on the report. While Seoul believes any North Korean satellite would be rudimentary at best, such technology could help Kim’s regime in its targeting as it steps up its ability to deliver a nuclear strike.

North Korea may launch a spy satellite as soon as this month, Japanese TV network FNN reported Friday, citing Japanese government officials it did not name.

Japanese and South Korean media reported last week that authorities have detected signs at a North Korean space center of a satellite launch. Equipment used to measure and assess the trajectory of a space rocket has been recently spotted at the launch site, Yonhap said. 

North Korea last launched a rocket in November to deploy a spy satellite, after two failed attempts earlier that year. Pyongyang has pledged to put three more spy satellites into orbit this year.

Read more: Kim Jong Un Tests Rockets to Hit Seoul and Perhaps Sell to Putin

The US, South Korea and others have accused North Korea of sending to Russia massive amounts of artillery shells along with its newest family of short-range nuclear-capable ballistic missiles for use in its war on Ukraine. 

Russia in return is providing North Korea with food, raw materials and parts used in weapons manufacturing, South Korean Defense Minister Shin Wonsik has said. Pyongyang and Moscow have denied the charges. 


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