Sunday, April 05, 2009


North Korea Conducts Missile Test, Now What?

As expected the North Korean missile test has occurred this weekend and no one took any attempt to shoot it down:


American officials condemned the North Korean launch of a long-range rocket Sunday, with President Obama calling it a “provocative act.”

The rocket, a Taepodong 2, was launched at around 11:30 a.m. local time Sunday (2:30 a.m. GMT) at a base in the northeastern part of the country. Officials in Washington, D.C., confirmed early Sunday that the rocket cleared Japan.

Preliminary data show that two objects, likely boosters from the rocket, apparently fell around Japan — one in the Sea of Japan and one in the Pacific Ocean. [CNN]

Here is the breaking news video from CNN:

It is humorous to see CNN’s Mike Chinoy already on the airwaves blaming the Bush Administration for the launch when the Bush administration did everything possible to appease Kim Jong-il to include laundering counterfeit money for them. It was also interesting that Chinoy does not mention why the Bush administration drop Agreed Framework 1.0, which is because of North Korea’s secret uranium program which Chinoy it is now proven was greatly wrong about in his book Meltdown.

Anyway as I expected no one made any attempt to shoot the missile down and the Japanese are saying no debris from the rocket landed in their territory:

Japan says no debris has apparently fallen on its territory after what it calls a provocative rocket launch. Japan has called for an emergency session of the United Nations Security Council later in the day to discuss the event, which it and others say violates a U.N. resolution.

The Japanese government, which had gone on high alert in case any debris fell on its territory, says the first stage of the rocket fell into the Sea of Japan 13 minutes after the launch at 11:30 a.m. local time about 280 kilometers off Japan’s western shore. The booster stage dropped in the western Pacific Ocean nearly 1,300 miles east of Japan. Japan’s Defense Ministry says its forces made no attempt to shoot down the rocket as it flew over two northern prefectures — Akita and Iwate. [Chosun Ilbo]

Here is a graphic via the Marmot’s Hole that shows the trajectory of the rocket and where the boosters landed:


The North Koreans for their part are claiming that their “satellite” is now successfully in orbit though no one has been able to confirm this yet:

North Korea confirmed its rocket launch on Sunday, saying that “communications satellite Kwangmyongsong-2″ has successfully entered into orbit.

But neighboring countries monitoring the launch have found “no evidence yet” to prove North Korea’s claim, a senior Seoul official said on condition of anonymity.

“Scientists and technicians of the DPRK (North Korea) have succeeded in putting satellite Kwangmyongsong-2, an experimental communications satellite, into orbit by means of carrier rocket Unha-2 under the state long-term plan for the development of outer space,” the North’s state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.

The three-stage rocket Unha-2 blasted off from a launch pad on the country’s northeast coast at 11:20 a.m. and put the satellite safely into orbit 2 seconds past 11:29 a.m., the report claimed.

The Kwangmyongsong-2 satellite is now following an “elliptic orbit, at the angle of inclination of 40.6 degrees at 490 km perigee and 1 426 km apogee,” it said, adding its cycle is 104 minutes and 12 seconds.

“The satellite is going round its routine orbit,” the KCNA said.

“The carrier rocket and the satellite developed through our indigenous wisdom and technology are the shining result of efforts to develop the nation’s space science and technology on a higher level,” it added. [Yonhap]

South Korean Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Yu Myung-hwan

I think there is a good chance the missile was a success because as Bruce Klingner reports, the Iranians have been using the same technology:

“When Iran launched their long-rang Safir missile in February, they used North Korean missile components and technical support,” Bruce Klingner, senior fellow at The Heritage Foundation, said. “And Pakistan’s mid-range Ghauri missile, which can carry a nuclear warhead, is actually a renamed North Korean Nodong.” [Yonhap]

The reaction to the launch from Seoul has been quite subdued with the government’s official position right now that the launch was of a satellite and not a missile. However, the South Korean government has so far have not been able to confirm that a satellite is in orbit. This launch could end up being similar to the one in 1998 where the North Koreans claimed that the Kwangmyongsong-1 satellite was a success yet no one could find any trace of it in the Earth’s orbit and the launch has long been considered a failure.

I thought the South Korean Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Yu Myung-hwan made a good point when he said that Seoul and the international community are greatly disappointed over Pyongyang’s heavy spending on the long-range rocket when the money could have been used to help relieve its chronic food shortages.

The ROK Army for their part are standing ready to deal with any other North Korean provocations:

The Defense Ministry has convened a crisis management committee meeting on how to respond to a rocket launched by North Korea.

The meeting was held soon after the launch was confirmed, and top military officials discussed measures on the launch and ordered troops to stand by for provocations at the Northern Limit Line in the Yellow Sea and the inter-Korean border.

The meeting was presided over by Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Kim Tae-young.

JCS operations chief Kim Jong-bae also told reporters that the South Korean military and U.S. forces in the South are beefing up a joint defense posture to deter further provocations. He said they are prepared for any move the North might pursue. [KBS Global]

The Japanese government did not issue much of a response either to the North Korean missile test:

Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Nakamura calls North Korea’s action “extremely regrettable.” Nakamura says whether North Korea was placing a satellite into space, as it claimed, or was indeed testing a missile, the launch violates a United Nations Security Council resolution forbidding Pyongyang from further ballistic missile development.

Nakamura, the top government spokesman, says Japan is prepared to extend economic sanctions by one year against North Korea. The sanctions, which are due to expire next week, followed a previous North Korean ballistic missile firing and a nuclear test, both in 2006. [Chosun Ilbo]

The United States government’s reaction on the other hand is a bit more stern towards North Korea, but still consistent with everyone else:

In a statement, Obama said the launch was “a clear violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1718, which expressly prohibits North Korea from conducting ballistic missile-related activities of any kind.”

“With this provocative act, North Korea has ignored its international obligations, rejected unequivocal calls for restraint, and further isolated itself from the community of nations,” Obama said. “We will immediately consult with our allies in the region, including Japan and (South Korea), and members of the U.N. Security Council to bring this matter before the Council,” Obama added. “I urge North Korea to abide fully by the resolutions of the U.N. Security Council and to refrain from further provocative actions.” [CNN]

You can read President Obama’s full statement here.

Well good luck President Obama getting anything of any substance to punish North Korea with in the UN with likely Chinese and Russian blocking of any serious sanctions:

Revere predicted difficulties in gaining support from China and Russia — who hold veto powers in the U.N. Security Council — for further sanctioning of North Korea.

“Obtaining Chinese, and perhaps Russian, agreement for a new UNSC resolution containing additional measures against North Korea will be very difficult,” he said. “Perhaps it will be possible to get a UNSC President’s statement, including a call for the enforcement of existing sanctions deriving from UNSC Resolution 1718.”

Resolution 1718, adopted after North Korea’s nuclear test in 2006, bans any ballistic missile activity by North Korea and imposes a trade embargo for North Korea on missile parts and other weapons-related products as well as luxury goods. Its enforcement, however, is believed to have been largely neglected by member states due to a lack of strong implementation measures. [Yonhap]

When you read stuff like this, it makes the fact that demonized US diplomat John Bolton remains the only American United Nation’s ambassador to get real sanctions passed against North Korea even that more incredible.

So when you get passed all the diplomatic posturing the US and the United Nations are going to write Kim Jong-il a angry letter. As Kim Jong-il surely expected, big deal.

This thing is fully playing out as I expected. The North Koreans conducted their missile test and disguised it as a satellite launch to allow their defenders cover to moderate any possible sanctions against them.

Simultaneously the North Koreans have for weeks been grabbing the international spotlight with this test even while the G20 and NATO summits were going on in Europe. This will surely move North Korea up the international agenda and has given Kim Jong-il a big facing saving lift domestically with this test proving he is still in charge despite his failing health and still willing to take provocative actions to further his country’s interests.

With this apparently successful launch North Korea can now demand more for any US efforts to halt their missile programs and has probably forced the US administration to move them further up their agenda. So I expect that in the coming months negotiations with North Korea will probably restart with first working out the release of the two reporters that were detained/kidnapped? by the North Koreans last month and everyone will claim it is some great diplomatic break through and that North Korea is coming around.

I wouldn’t be surprised if in return for their release a top level US leader is sent to North Korea to negotiate directly with the North Koreans. Mike Chinoy from CNN is his interview was already advocating for this and the US’s North Korean nuclear envoy Stephen Bosworth is already saying he is ready to go to North Korea and appease them as soon as possible:

Stephen Bosworth

Stephen Bosworth

Bosworth said the U.S. stands ready — after a launch — to participate in United Nations deliberations on new sanctions against North Korea, and will be “working very closely with our partners to ensure that after the dust of the missiles settles a bit, we get back to the longer-term priority of the missile — of the Six-Party Talks.”

And, he said, he was prepared to go to Pyongyang after a launch, if invited.

“In my experience in dealing with North Koreans, pressure is not the most productive line of approach,” he said. “You have to combine pressure with incentives and I think we are in a position to begin talking about things that we can provide and do what the North Koreans would find positive,” which included talking about normalizing the relationship between North Korea and the United States. [CNN]

You mean laundering counterfeit money, turning a blind eye to nuclear proliferation to Syria, and even taking them off the State Sponsors of Terrorism list among a host of other Bush administration appeasements, isn’t incentive enough?

So basically this rocket launch has given the North Korean appeasement crowd the opportunity they have been looking for to appease Kim Jong-il, but don’t expect him to give up his nuclear program in return for a variety of reasons I have listed before. So if people like Bosworth have their way, Agreed Framework 3.0 will even be worse then its last two deals.

It is sad to see when such better options are available.

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