Sunday, April 05, 2009

North Korean Missile Launch: My Thoughts

As of Sunday Morning 6 am PST
Following a month of sabre-rattling, North Korea defiantly carried out a rocket launch Sunday (K time). The U.S., Japan, and other nations suspect the launch is a cover for the testing of NKs long-range missile technology. 
Liftoff took place at 11:30 a.m. from the coastal Musudan-rilaunch pad in northeastern North Korea.

Like expected…
The move by North Korea has sparked an uproar and strong voices of concern from the international community. The United States and Japan are calling for sanctions against NK through the U.N. Security Council.

I expect China and Russia, although they warned North Korea not to launch the missile, to call for a more moderate approach.

North Korea comments
North Korea claims it put a communications satellite into orbit in a step toward becoming a “powerful nation.”

The North Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), announced that the satellite Kwangmyongsong-2 is running "on its routine orbit" and "sending to the earth the melodies of immortal revolutionary paeans" to leader Kim Jong-il and his father and late President Kim Il-sung.

The South Korean government and the U.S. military has confirmed that no North Korean satellite made it into orbit--all 3 stages falling into the Pacific Ocean.

North Korea may have spent up to US$500 million to send up the satellite.

The North will fall short of more than one million tons of food to feed its 24 million people this year. Like in the past, NK looks to China, South Korea, and the U.S. for rice and food aid.

Three reason why North Korea launched the rocket.
1. It’s a strategy to boost internal unity in North Korea
2. To increase pressure on Washington for bi-lateral talks
3. And, possibly a sales pitch for possible buyers of NK arms technology. NK sells lots of arms including an array of missiles.

Economic Issues
1. Economists in South Korea feel the rocket firing will not have a negative effect on consumption and investment as private and business spending has been already dented by the global economic recession. I do feel NK's antics does however impact FDI, since it does raise concerns over stability in the region.

2. Despite North Korean saber-rattling in the past month, the local bourse and foreign exchange rates were not seriously hurt and actually improved.

3. Finally, as in the past, few in South Korea get overly concerned over the North's antics---most folks are more concerned over their job, the economy, and family.

Questions? Concerns? Thoughts?

1 comment:

  1. Ditto

    from the April 05, 2009 edition -
    North Korea's challenge for Obama
    The US must pressure China to rein in its ally.

    By the Monitor's Editorial Board
    North Korea spent about $30 million to launch a rocket across the Pacific April 4 – but it still needs foreign aid to prevent a mass famine.

    In 2006, it tested an atomic weapon – but its people still must scrounge for coal each winter to keep warm.

    It regularly puts on massive public performances in stadiums – but thousands of hungry or desperate North Koreans flee to China each year.

    Can such a regime survive for long?

    China hopes so, and in fact still provides food and fuel to prop up the iron-fisted (and ham-handed) rule of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il. Beijing does not want to see a unified Korea – with the possibility of US troops on its border. Only once, in 2006, did China cut off aid – briefly – in protest over North Korea's weapon advances that upset stability in Asia.

    South Korea, too, remains wary of the North Korean regime collapsing soon. Since the mid-1990s, when it estimated the cost of absorbing the North's 23 million poor to be too high for its own economy, Seoul has zig-zagged between acting tough and boosting the North's economy, mainly with food aid.

    Because of these stances by China and South Korea, the Obama administration has difficult choices in how to respond to North Korea's latest provocation, especially now that North Korea is within reach of being able to launch an atomic weapon toward US territory. The US must cater to the interests of South Korea, which is an official ally and the main target of North Korea's military. And it must rely on China, which the US wants to treat as an ally and which, as North Korea's only ally, keeps the door open for US talks with Mr. Kim.

    Given Kim's recent health problems and his continuing inability to adequately feed about 40 percent of his people, China may be especially wary now of destabilizing the regime with tougher sanctions.

    South Korea, however, which recently elected a conservative government, could decide that this latest missile launch is too much of a threat to the world and itself. It might risk applying more pressure on the North by becoming a member of the 74-nation Proliferation Security Initiative.

    The PSI was set up by the US in 2003 to prevent North Korea from shipping or gaining weapons and missiles by intercepting ships suspected of carrying such materials. If South Korea's Navy now starts to stop ships from the North, any one incident could escalate into a conflict that may lead to full-scale war.

    North Korea could be on verge of instability anyway under Kim. The military was probably running the country during his recent incapacitation. None of his sons appear ready to rule. Should the US and South Korea now apply pressure for regime change? Should they wait until it happens on its own?

    For now, Mr. Obama's best course is to test China's resolve in finally solving the North Korean problem, including the issue of Kim possibly selling weapons know-how to Iran, Syria, and others. And China must recognize that a vital US interest is at stake if North Korea continues down this dangerous path. A US missile shield is still a work in progress. It may not be able to destroy a missile coming from North Korea.

    Whether by sanctions or some other means, it is time for China to show it won't let a rogue, nuclear-tipped state put the US, Japan, and South Korea in further jeopardy.