North Korea’s Planned Satellite Launch Causes Concern
NEWS, 26 Mar 2012
North Korea’s planned launch of a satellite to mark the hundredth anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Sung, the country’s first and eternal president is threatening to overshadow the forthcoming nuclear security conference in Seoul, which begins this weekend [26 Mar 2012]. The North Koreans insist launching the rocket they will use to put the satellite in orbit is not a long-range missile test. An official statement said the “working satellite” will put the country’s space technology to peaceful use.
The Japanese are responding by moving defence systems into position to shoot down the rocket if it enters Japan’s airspace. A previous launch of a long-range rocket did indeed fly over Japan.
This week China expressed its “worry” at meetings with the North Korean ambassador in Beijing. Remember when WikiLeaks revealed US cables in which the Chinese were quoted as describing their North Korean neighbours as a “spoilt child”? There always seems to be a sense of underlying exasperation in Beijing when Pyongyang is upsetting the neighbours. China has long adopted the role of ‘peacemaker’, while at the same time arming, feeding and fuelling its troublesome country cousins.
In Seoul this weekend you’ll see President Obama visiting the DMZ, the border between North and South Korea. Obama will also meet with the South Koreans, the Japanese and the Chinese. So four members of the six who make up the Six-party Talks aimed at disarming North Korea’s nuclear weapons.
As Obama gazes across the border, which President Clinton once described as the scariest in the world, many South Koreans will be marking the second anniversary of the sinking of a naval vessel hit by a North Korean torpedo
The planned meetings, and the summit itself, are infuriating Pyongyang which has said that any discussions of its nuclear weapons will be a “declaration of war”.
So lots of tough talk from all sides. There is a sense of surprise that the North Koreans announced this launch, which they must have known would invite condemnation especially when the ink was barely dry on a agreement between the US and Pyongyang.
The deal signed in Beijing in February put a freeze on uranium enrichment and long-range missile tests, in exchange for 240,000 tons of food aid from the USA.
That deal has now been delayed due to the planned launch. The US State Department is saying it is “hard to imagine” how the food aid can be sent to Pyongyang with the rocket almost on the launch pad.
US charities have issued a press release expressing their concern for the estimated hundreds of thousands who are short of food in North Korea, who will now have to wait for the promised aid.
So North Korea agrees to halt long-range missile tests and then announces a rocket launch almost straight away. The tactic does follow a pattern seen in North Korean negotiations before. Pyongyang announces it will comply with international pressure and then does a swift u-turn.
They kicked out IAEA inspectors in 2009 after agreeing to allow their nuclear facilities to be checked.
With China, North Korea’s main ally, against the launch there must be a small hope that the whole event will be called off. However, this would be a massive loss of face for the new young leader Kim Jong-un, especially as 2012 has been heralded as a “year of strength and prosperity” to mark the hundredth birthday of his grandfather.
Kim is now in a staring match with all of his neighbours, including his main ally, and the US.
Who will blink first? The outcome will determine the nature of the next round of negotiations and possibly the fragile peace of the peninsular.
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