North must end ICBM ambitions

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North must end ICBM ambitions

North Korea has announced it will conduct the “satellite launch” - which was botched back in April - between Dec. 10 and 22. That creates an uproar in the international community again.

Responding to Pyongyang’s move, our government demanded an immediate withdrawal of the plan by defining it as an attempt to “launch a long-range missile.” The U.S. State Department criticized the move as a grave provocation threatening the peace and security of the region, and Tokyo followed by canceling director-level talks with Pyongyang scheduled for Wednesday. China also expressed opposition to the North’s move, though indirectly.

Pyongyang’s intention is obvious: to secure rocket technology to carry intercontinental ballistic missiles to proclaim its cherished nuclear power status. The rocket technologies for launching satellites and firing ICBMs are nearly identical. North Korea carried out a total of four missile tests from 1998 through April of this year. Except for the test in 2006, which was conducted without any warning, three tests were done in the name of “satellite launch.” Despite its announcement that it successfully put the satellites into orbit in the first and third tests, all four tests ended in failure. Still, the North’s attempt to relaunch a “satellite” only eight months after the April fiasco underscores a desperation to finalize ICBM technologies.

By flaunting its new status, Pyongyang wants strategic leverage in relations with the United States, in particular. The timing of the missile - coinciding with regime changes in Korea, the United States, Japan and China - is also aimed at maximizing the advantage as they can hardly make a strong, concerted action during transitional periods.

Whatever calculation the North makes, the missile launch is a criminal act banned by the United Nations Security Council. The UN Security Council has denounced Pyongyang’s rocket launches and forbidden additional tests through the UN Resolutions 1718 and 1874. When the North dared to launch an intercontinental missile in April, the council declared it will “automatically” call a Security Council meeting if the North test-fires a missile.

Pyongyang’s latest act endangers the peace on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia. Under circumstances where presidential candidates in Korea and re-elected U.S. President Barack Obama expressed a willingness to improve relations with Pyongyang, the new provocation will only backfire. We urge the North to cancel its plan to launch a long-range missile. Only destruction will await the recalcitrant regime in Pyongyang if it does otherwise.

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