North Korea plans to launch a long-range rocket sometime between Dec. 10 and 22 with the excuse that it is placing a satellite in orbit. South Korean missile experts estimate that the North Korean three-stage liquid-fuel rocket has a range of about 10,000 km, capable of reaching the western part of the United States, including California.
The plan is clearly a provocation that violates two United Nations Security Council resolutions adopted in October 2006 and in June 2009, which say that North Korea must not carry out any further missile tests. The resolutions also demand that the country conduct no further nuclear tests. It would be to North Korea’s benefit to cancel the launch. If it goes ahead with it, its isolation in the international community will only deepen.
North Korea takes the position that every country has a right to pursue a peaceful space development project and insists that it is following the final instructions left by the late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, who died Dec. 17, 2011. Apparently his youngest son, current leader Mr. Kim Jong Un, is trying to consolidate his regime by showing the North Korean people that he is following his father’s final instructions. The rocket launch will likely take place on or around the first anniversary of his death.
Although North Korea seems to be preoccupied with strengthening the legitimacy of the current regime — a purely domestic political issue — it should realize that the planned rocket launch is forcing the international community to intensify its criticism of the regime. It should pay attention to the position expressed by China, North Korea’s most important ally.
In a foreign ministry statement, China said that although North Korea has a right to carry out a space development project, the right is restricted by the UNSC resolutions. This is a call on North Korea to halt the rocket launch. Russia also says that North Korea’s rocket launch plan is regrettable and demands that it cancel the plan.
If the North goes ahead with the rocket launch, the U.S., Japan and South Korea, in their foreign ministry bureau chief level talks, have agreed to take stern action against North Korea in accordance with an April 2012 UNSC presidential statement, which condemns Pyongyang’s unsuccessful April 13 satellite launch.
North Korea should take a serious view of the fact that all the other countries taking part in the six-party talks on the North’s nuclear weapons development program are demanding that it cancel the rocket launch.
If North Korea launches the rocket and the satellite as scheduled, the UNSC will likely adopt additional sanctions against it. This would further delay North Korea’s economic reconstruction, which is also part of the final instructions of Kim Jong Il.
The North Korean leadership should concentrate on improving the well-being of its people instead of using its limited resources to develop long-range missiles and nuclear weapons.