Analysis

North Korea: Missile Launch Shows Continued Regime Belligerence
Screen shot from North Korean video footage of the April 5, 2009 launch of a Taepodong-2 based rocket that North Korea claimed was intended to lift a satellite into orbit. A similar rocket will probably be used for North Korea’s planned rocket launch next month.
March 19, 2012
| Security
| Asia and the Pacific
Summary
North Korea’s announcement last week that it will use a long-range rocket to place a satellite into orbit surprised some Western observers coming so soon after Pyongyang’s February 29 agreement to freeze missile testing and some nuclear activity in exchange for 240,000 tons of food aid from the United States. Most Western observers believe this launch is actually a North Korean test of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of delivering a nuclear payload as far as the western United States. While this would be consistent with North Korea’s frequent failure to honor such agreements, it could also reflect internal dynamics as the Kim Jong Un government establishes itself.

Whatever North Korea’s motivation, the announcement of the rocket launch has attracted widespread international condemnation. Japan strongly criticized it and Japanese newspapers reported the country may attempt to shoot the missile down. The announcement has also created a conundrum for Obama administration officials who had gambled, in their promise of food aid, that the new Kim regime would be more cooperative than the old.

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