[EDITORIALS]Why on Earth a missile?As word spread that preparations for a test launch of a North Korean Taepodong-2 missile were in the initial stages, the state of affairs among countries surrounding the Korean Peninsula is changing rapidly. The United States and Japan are threatening to take strong action, such as calling a session of the United Nations Security Council. The Korean government is expressing concern about the serious repercussions a launch could have on North-South relations.
If North Korea, in spite of the threats and repeated attempts at dissuasion, nevertheless decides to continue with its plans for a missile launch, all responsibility for any bad effects that stem from that decision is its own. That much needs to be clear. We cannot help but ask what sort of benefits North Korea could possibly reap through a test launch of the Taepodong-2 missile, which is known to have intercontinental range.
Most people would guess that it is simply an act of brinkmanship to break the deadlock in the six-party talks, which has developed because of several factors, including financial sanctions imposed by the United States.
The Bush administration, already in hot water because of the Iraq fiasco and the Iranian nuclear threat, no longer has the flexibility to compromise. It simply has no choice but to cooperate with the international community to increase the pressure on North Korea.
Even those in America who favor a moderate approch, who have been critical until now of the administration’s hard-line tactics, have now muted that criticism. Thus, the voices of the hawks only continue to get louder.
Any missile launch will most likely have the unintended result of helping the anti-North Korea hard-liners gain ground during the November mid-term elections in the United States and the selection by Japan’s governing party of a new prime minister. To make matters worse, North Korea would lose the support of people in South Korea who have been sympathetic toward their neighbor to the north.
In spite of the North Korean nuclear threat, South Korea’s President Roh Moo-hyun has persistently tried to increase trade and cooperation, including aid to the North, in the name of the common heritage of Koreans. As criticism of the administration escalates, an overall re-evaluation of South Korea’s policy toward North Korea will be unavoidable.
Furthermore, it is certain that the leverage the South Korean government has used to counter American and Japanese pressure on North Korea would be weakened considerably. North Korea may claim that it is simply exercising the prerogative of a sovereign state. But they are surely aware that test-launching intercontinental missiles is not a matter of sovereignty ― it is a matter of international politics. Cards are only effective when they are in your hand; they are of no use once they are shown to your opponent.
If North Korea ignores such self-evident principles and goes forward with its plans for test-launching its new missile, it would be demonstrating the stupidity of incurring a great loss for the sake of a making a small profit.
North Korea must immediately end its utterly destructive missile gamble.