Launch falloutThe effects of North Korea’s rocket launch are serious. The United Nations Security Council has yet to agree on a response to the launch. There are some in South Korea who want to see us develop our own missile and nuclear programs. Japan is taking this as an opportunity to beef up its military power. North Korea has certainly succeeded in attracting international attention, but that’s the end of the story. As long as the North continues to threaten the world, the international community has no choice but to respond with sanctions or similar measures.
The North is celebrating the successful launch of a communications satellite, but the world knows that nothing has made it into orbit. Even if this is just a show performed on the eve of the opening of the North’s Supreme People’s Assembly, still it is absurd. If the launch was carried out to promote the North’s “military-first policy,” the effects are not likely to last. The North is a reclusive regime, but news about the failed launch will soon spread, worsening the North Korean people’s distrust of their leaders.
Meanwhile, the North has detained two American journalists and a South Korean worker, perhaps as a negotiating tool. The North probably thought that holding the Americans would provide it with an opportunity to engage the U.S. in direct talks. The launch also seems aimed at creating division in the South by presenting it with an obstacle to its North Korea policy. What North Korea has done is ugly and inhumane.
This latest crisis, and the preceding events, has also had a negative impact on the Kaesong Industrial Complex. Prior to the launch, the North prevented South Korean officials from traveling freely to and from the joint industrial zone, demanded that an annual South Korea-U.S. military drill be stopped and called on the South to change its North Korea policy. As tensions continued to escalate, companies already operating within the Kaesong complex have begun to reconsider their prospects and plans for new factories have been canceled. The two Koreas have invested a decade into the project, but it now seems to have a fragile future.
The North must regain its sense of reason. It is impossible to imagine any nation building diplomatic ties with the world while simultaneously threatening it with nuclear arms and missiles. North Korea should take the example of China to heart. Only one generation after its decision to reform itself, China has developed into a superpower as competitive as the United States. Vietnam is another example of an emerging economy that has grown following decades of reform. Is it too much to expect the North to follow in the footsteps of these nations, which managed rapid growth while maintaining their socialist regimes?