Missile test a grave provocationNorth Korea has announced that it will test-fire an intercontinental ballistic missile disguised as a satellite this April, just two weeks after agreeing with the United States to halt nuclear and long-range missile tests in exchange for 240,000 metric tons of food aid. The U.S. Department of State has called North Korea’s planned rocket launch “highly provocative.” UN Security Council Resolution 1874 bans rocket launches using missile technology. The regime is again playing its old trick of brinkmanship, this time testing U.S. President Barack Obama during an election year.
North Korea fired its first “satellite,” Kwangmyongsong, in 1998, which was viewed as a long-range missile test and called Taepodong-1 by the international community. The North then launched the first stage of the Taepodong-2 in 2006 and completed the second stage in 2009. The latest Taepodong-2 failed to reach orbit, flying only 3,200 kilometers (1,990 miles) and falling into the Pacific Ocean. Months after the latter two long-range missile tests, North Korea conducted nuclear tests.
Washington has condemned the announcement, saying such a missile launch would “pose a threat to regional security and would also be inconsistent with North Korea’s recent undertaking to refrain from long-range missile launches.” Pyongyang will try to weasel its way out, affirming that the satellite launch is part of a peaceful space program.
But North Korea has been using the same trick too often. Obama is already facing criticism for “buying the same horse” again - or giving into Pyongyang’s tactics of offering concessions on nuclear and missile tests in exchange for aid. Pyongyang’s latest gamble could be the end of the negotiating road.
Seoul has expressed its doubt over the recent Washington-Pyongyang agreement. If North Korea goes ahead with the launch - which will likely fall around the centennial of the birth of founder Kim Il Sung on April 15 - the expected six-party talks following the North Korea-U.S. agreement will likely derail, bringing the North Korean nuclear issue back to square one.
The recent move from the Pyongyang regime suggests that North Korea’s new young leader Kim Jong-un will continue the belligerent and provocative external policies of his father. If tensions escalate further after the missile launch, North Korea may make yet another provocative move against South Korea. North Korea must show restraint, and South Korea must be on alert.