Amidst Confusion: North Korea’s Rocket Launch

December 19, 2012

Pyongyang’s space exploration programme has gotten off to a rocky start. According to latest reports by South Korea’s Defence Ministry, the satellite is orbiting normally at a speed of 7.6 km per second. Amidst conflicting versions, North Korea has repeatedly asserted that the launch was successful from the start. North Korea is hailing it as a ground-breaking achievement and a tribute to the Kim Jong-il’s vision and leadership. North Korea watchers regard the launch as an attempt to consolidate Kim Jong-un’s leadership position.

Despite being one of the most unpredictable nations in the world with a dubious human rights record, North Korea did inform its anxious neighbour, South Korea, about the launch. However, the rocket launch is likely to intensify global condemnation 0f the North because it is regarded as an attempt by Pyongyang to test and develop nuclear missile delivery technology.

In reality, putting a satellite into orbit means that one has the technology to launch a warhead to a targeted area. Obviously, the United States and its allies were infuriated by the launch but also worried. Even China expressed regrets over the launch while calling on all sides to avoid “stoking the flames”.

The UN Security Council has condemned Pyongyang for continuing with its clandestine nuclear programme. Much like Iran - which is in violation of the NPT and CTBT, North Korea has continued with its nuclear activities unabated. Which is why United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki- Moon has condemned the launch “as a clear violation” of the 2009 resolution that banned North Korea from carrying out tests using ballistic missile technology. Further, he said that the Security Council would consider the issue and its likely impact at a scheduled meeting in the near future. The President of South Korea, Lee Myang-bak, has also expressed his concern by calling the launch as violation of UN resolutions. Similarly, the United States has described the launch as “a provocative action”, and so has Japan’s Foreign Minister, Koichrio Gemba, who has called for a tough stand to be taken by the UNSC.

Under this scenario, the rocket launch and its likely repercussions on regional and global security must be carefully discussed by all world leaders. “No matter what others say, we will continue to exercise our legitimate right to launch satellites,” said a North Korean foreign ministry spokesman, urging the international community to stay cool “to prevent the situation from developing (in an) undesirable direction.”

Against such intransigence by North Korea, all careful and judicious means must be employed as a first step so that overall stability on the Korean peninsula be preserved. Again, what is very much needed at this crucial juncture is that Pyongyang, instead of being alienated, be properly engaged in constructive and meaningful cooperation by extending generous economic assistance to strengthen its economy and socio-political development.

Further, there is also an urgent need to ensure proper development of democratic institutions and full respect to human rights. If these steps fail to bring about the desired outcome, then coercive means against North Korea may be used but only under the authority of the United Nations.

Read more about:

Tags: , , , ,