North Korea’s Planned Satellite Launch Causes Concern

NEWS, 26 Mar 2012

Angus Walker, China Correspondent – ITV News

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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One Response to “North Korea’s Planned Satellite Launch Causes Concern”

  1. satoshi says:

    North Korea’s announcement of the plan of the launch of the so-called satellite was made a few days before President Obama’s visit to the DMZ.

    Regarding the above article, let me point out the following issues:

    1.0. Kim Jong-Un’s Message: The new leader’s message behind the plan of the launch of the rocket may be “I am the new and young leader of North Korea. But don’t underestimate me. Look! This launch of the rocket is my greeting to you!” Although the message was addressed primarily to the United States and to Japan, China has scoffed at him and has regarded him as a “spoiled child” as the above article points out. Meanwhile, North Korea is demanding that the United States and Japan (but not China) provide North Korea with humanitarian assistance (especially, of food).

    2.1. North Korea’s Relations with China, Japan, South Korea and the United States: Although outsiders tend to consider that China is North Korea’s ally, it seems that North Korea does not receive a necessary amount of humanitarian assistance (such as food) from China. Instead, however, North Korea attempts to receive humanitarian assistance from their assumption enemies, the US and Japan. Why is that? It is perhaps because of the three main reasons, among many other reasons, as follows:

    2.2. First: the characteristic differences between Koreans and Chinese. Although both of them are East Asians, their characters (Han people (= the ethnic majority of Chinese) vs. Korean people) are substantially different. Rather, Koreans’ mentality resembles that of Japanese. (Historically, the so-called main stream Japanese, including the Japanese Royal Family, came from Korea in ancient times.) Besides, North Korea is afraid that their request for Chinese assistance might invite China’s political intervention to North Korea. China is North Korea’s next door neighbor, a huge neighbor. It seems, therefore, that North Korea considers China as a big and potentially dangerous neighbor; neither their enemy nor their ally. North Korea pretends that China is their ally but actually North Korea seems to keep some political distance from China.

    2.3. Second: It is sure that leaders of North Korea wish to avoid making a hostile relation with the United States, regardless of their hard attitude against the United States. North Korea’s leaders saw that the end of Saddam Hussein’s regime and that of Qaddafi’s regime. To have a war with the United States is the last thing North Korea wants to do.

    2.4. Third: North Koreans constantly receive financial and any other assistance not only from their relatives in South Korea, but also from Koreans working in Japan. It is estimated that some 2 million (or more) ethnic Koreans living and working in Japan. (Some of them have the Japanese citizenship, while others have the permanent residential status in Japan. Most of those Koreans in Japan are descendants of Korean citizens in Korea, taken by the Japanese authorities from Korea to Japan to force them to work as slaves before and during WWII/Pacific War. The untold tragic history is behind them.) The assistance from those ethnic Koreans in Japan is vital for North Koreans’ survival. Though it is not necessarily that all ethnic Koreans in Japan are sending assistance to North Koreans, it is deemed that the substantial numbers of them are helping their relatives in North Korea. It is nothing wrong to help their starving relatives. From North Koreans’ view point, almost the same thing can be said of South Koreans. That is, firstly, the substantial numbers of South Koreans are sending their assistance to their relatives in North Korea. Secondly, North Korea seems to consider that it is necessary for North Korea to remind South Korea of the military power of North Korea from time to time, but North Korea has no intention to damage the relation with South Korea fatally. It is because North Korea knows that they cannot survive without the assistance from South Korea. The assistance is deemed to be sent to North Koreans through some underground routes so that no official statistics for the assistance are available.

    3.1. The Vicious Circle of Fear and Protection: The more protection North Korea has, the more they feel fear; they think that the newly added protection is insufficient. So, they need more protection. This is the “circle of fear and protection,” (= fear requires more protection that produces more fear that requires more protection that produces more fear). This is a kind of a vicious circle. No protection system reduces fear, because their fear is not outside; their fear is in their minds. It is reported that Kim Jong-Il died of a heart-attack, not because of the failure of his protection system. (Or some people might say that Kim Jong-Il’s protection system successfully protected his physical safety but his system failed to protect his health.)

    3.2. Negative Effects of the Circle of Fear and Protection: The more North Korea spends money for their protection, the less their country becomes prosperous. But the “circle of fear and protection” is endless. So, they have continued spending a huge amount of money for their protection over the decades. The more they spent money for their protection, the poorer their country became. Now their people are starving (although the huge expense for the defense is not the only reason for the starvation). The World Health Organization estimates that some 60% of North Koreans are starving. On one hand, North Korea needs humanitarian assistance desperately; on the other hand, their leaders cannot escape from the “circle of fear and protection,” because leaders of North Korea believe that the United States might overthrow the Kim Regime. They are trapped with the nightmare of Saddam Hussein and Qaddafi, as mentioned above.

    May peace be with the Korean Peninsula.