North Korea on Friday failed in its anticipated satellite launch, with the rocket splintering into pieces. The North should not attempt another launch or nuclear test, which will only contribute to heightening tensions in the region.
The launch came after its young leader Kim Jong Un was promoted to the post of the first secretary of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea on Wednesday. The post was newly created in an attempt to strengthen his grip on power nearly four months’ after the death of his father, and a the previous leader, Kim Jong Il.
Under the pretext of peaceful space development, the Kwangmyongsong-3 satellite, ostensibly an Earth observation satellite, was mounted on the Taepodong-2 rocket. Although the third and last stage of the rocket had been expected to fall into the sea east of the Philippines about 3,000 km from the launch site near the Yellow Sea, the first stage fell into the sea about 165 km west of Seoul and the second and third stages failed.
Given North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, it is logical to conclude that the North Korean launch was an attempt to develop missile technology capable of delivering a nuclear warhead. This is a clear violation of the 2009 United Nations Security Council resolution, which prohibits North Korea from carrying out any launch that uses ballistic missile technology.
Although the satellite launch failed, the country’s provocation only deepens the international community’s distrust of its regime, which adheres “the military first policy.” The late Kim Jong Ill left the policy as his political legacy for the current leader.
Apparently, North Korea was trying to show off its national power during a runup to the 100th birthday on April 15 of the late Kim Il Sung, Mr. Kim Jong Un’s grandfather who founded the country in 1948.
In a meeting of party representatives in Pyongyang on Wednesday, the young leader was named the party’s fist secretary, instead of general secretary, the latter being traditionally the top post of the party. The late Kim Jong Il, was given the posthumous title of “eternal general secretary.”
It seems that by deliberately refraining from assuming the rank of his father, the young leader is showing respect and loyalty to his late father. Having no remarkable achievements under his belt, he also appears to be making every effort to gain the trust of the people, the party and the military to legitimize his rule.
He was also named chairman of the party’s Central Military Commission and elevated to standing member of the party’s Political Bureau, the party’s highest-level decision-making body.
North Korea is suffering from economic stagnation and food shortages. The failed satellite launch can be interpreted as an attempt to cover up the country’s weakness.
If the North continues its provocative policy, it will only deepen its isolation in the international community, putting itself into further difficulties. China, an ally which has close ties with the North, should act responsibly to restrain its behavior.