News / Asia

    North Korea Undeterred by International Condemnation

    North Koreans dance on the Kim Il Sung Square to celebrate a satellite launch, Feb. 8, 2016, in Pyongyang, North Korea.
    North Koreans dance on the Kim Il Sung Square to celebrate a satellite launch, Feb. 8, 2016, in Pyongyang, North Korea.
    Brian Padden

    North Korea’s defiant stance in the face of international condemnation over its rocket launch Sunday and its nuclear test last month are in some ways strengthening Kim Jong Un’s position at home and abroad.

    Domestically, the young leader is portrayed by the North’s tightly controlled state media as a strong leader defending the country’s sovereignty against hostile American and South Korean forces.

    And Sunday’s rocket launch is described by state media outlets as a great technological achievement by a rapidly advancing nation that fills many North Koreans with pride.

    Official media have published interviews with North Korean citizens praising the launch as a symbol of technological progress, however it is impossible to gauge the actual domestic support for the impoverished country's ambitious nuclear programs and missile launches.  

    A passenger walks past a TV screen broadcasting a news report on North Korea's long range rocket launch at a railway station in Seoul, South Korea, Feb. 7, 2016.
    A passenger walks past a TV screen broadcasting a news report on North Korea's long range rocket launch at a railway station in Seoul, South Korea, Feb. 7, 2016.

    The U.S. Joint Space Operations Center said North Korea's rocket launch put two objects in orbit, but it is unclear if either is sending out signals.

    No signal has ever been detected from a similar North Korea satellite, launched in 2012, which orbits the Earth every 95 minutes. Pyongyang has said the 100 kg, metal “satellite” was equipped with cameras to send images back to Earth.

    The United Nations Security Council Sunday condemned North Korea for testing ballistic missile technology under the guise of a satellite launch that contributes to the “development of nuclear weapon delivery systems.”

    U.N. Security Council resolutions have banned North Korea from developing nuclear weapons and ballistic missile technology and have imposed four rounds of increasingly stronger sanctions since 2006.

    Defiant abroad

    Pyongyang’s recent rocket launch and nuclear test sends a clear message to the international community that North Korea will not give up its nuclear deterrent.

    In 2013 North Korea adopted the “Byungjin” (parallel development) policy of "economy and nuclear weapons" designating both as essential goals to maintain the country’s independence.

    North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reacts as he watches a long range rocket launch in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang, Feb. 7, 2016.
    North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reacts as he watches a long range rocket launch in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang, Feb. 7, 2016.

    For the ruling Kim Jong Un family, the fall of Moammar Gaddafi of Libya in 2011, after he gave up his country’s nuclear weapons, was a cautionary tale that solidified their uncompromising nuclear position. 

    “I don’t think any kind of sanctions or anything else, other than force or some internal revolutionary change in North Korea, would get them off this track. It’s part of their identity,” said Daniel Pinkston, a lecturer in international relations with Troy University in Seoul.

    Demand for sanctions

    Following Sunday’s controversial launch, Washington and its allies reiterated demands for harsh economic sanctions that would impose real economic pain on North Korea by restricting shipping, aviation, and trade.

    China’s, the North’s key economic benefactor, is reluctant to go along with punitive measures that could destabilize the region.

    Beijing reportedly only supports sanctions on the transfer or sale of military equipment or other items directly related to the North’s weapons program.

    And it wants all sides to exercise restraint and resume international talks to address a peaceful resolution to the North Korean nuclear standoff.

    FILE - A Chinese-built fence near a concrete marker depicting the North Korean and Chinese national flags with the words "China North Korea Border" at a crossing in the Chinese border town of Tumen in eastern China's Jilin province.
    FILE - A Chinese-built fence near a concrete marker depicting the North Korean and Chinese national flags with the words "China North Korea Border" at a crossing in the Chinese border town of Tumen in eastern China's Jilin province.

    However, the Xi Jinping government is being seen as increasingly impotent and unable to exert any influence over its ally.

    The Kim Jong Un government announced the planned rocket launch on the same day China sent envoy Wu Dawei to North Korea last week.

    Even many Chinese see Pyongyang’s disregard for Beijing as humiliating.

    “There’s criticism domestically, particularly online of Chinese saying, 'You know, what is going on? And how do we let the tail wag the dog, and how do we let our much weaker [and what] should be subservient ally get away with this stuff?' ” said John Delury, a China and North Korea analyst at Seoul's Yonsei University.

    Arms race

    The United States and South Korea issued a statement soon after the launch, announcing they would begin formal talks about deploying the sophisticated Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system (THAAD) to the Korean peninsula.

     

    Japan also said it is considering THAAD to enhance its defenses. The North Korean rocket on Sunday flew over Japan's southern Okinawa prefecture.

     

    THAAD is designed to intercept and destroy ballistic missiles during their final, or terminal, phase of flight. It has so far proven effective against short- and medium-range ballistic missiles.

    China has voiced opposition to a further military buildup on the Korean peninsula and particularly to the THAAD system, whose radar could penetrate Chinese territory. 

    On Sunday Beijing’s foreign ministry said China is "deeply concerned" over the announced negotiations and said the missile defense system will escalate tensions on the Korean peninsula and in the region.

    North Koreans gather at the Kim Il Sung Square to celebrate a satellite launch, Feb. 8, 2016, in Pyongyang, North Korea.
    North Koreans gather at the Kim Il Sung Square to celebrate a satellite launch, Feb. 8, 2016, in Pyongyang, North Korea.

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    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: william li from: canada
    February 08, 2016 1:39 PM
    NK has every right to develop nukes and rockets to protect herself. US should leave Asia and mind its own business!

    by: Lou from: Atlanta
    February 08, 2016 9:16 AM
    I'm sure they got the technology from their neighbor. But if they did launch two satellites, that's only two more pieces of space junk that NASA will have to track.
    In Response

    by: Hyan from: USA
    February 08, 2016 3:00 PM
    In response to "meanbill." The North Koreans deserve absolutely no credit for their accomplishments. They way you spin it make them sound like heroes of some sort. The reality: The North Koreans only had sanctions in the first place for their international disobedience on dozens of issues which continue today. The way they got around ridiculous sanctions to continue their space and nuclear programs is by depleting their millions of citizens of essential resources, and hogging them all for their elite leaders and government programs.

    On top of the entire nation on the verge of starving, they use forced labor by people of their own nation which they've enslaved for life (for reasons such as a family relative showing distrust of the government) to produce an income. The North Koreans also have ties with meth production and international distribution (only one of the illegal products they have their hands in for profit). The only reason they've accomplished what they have with no other help, is because they are doing what they are not supposed to do by the most evil and corrupt methods possible. A round of applause to North Korea, right meanbill?
    In Response

    by: meanbill from: USA
    February 08, 2016 10:18 AM
    Hey Lou _ Give the North Koreans credit for their nuclear and space accomplishments, given the fact, that they accomplished everything they did with the strictest sanctions and embargos ever place on any country in history, [remember], that only a very few countries on earth have accomplished what they have done, and they did it on their own? .. Remember, that these North Koreans are of the same blood as the South Koreans, and it was the North Koreans that developed nuclear weapons and rockets to fly in outer space? .. without help?

    by: Franklin Stein
    February 08, 2016 6:09 AM
    I am sure, at the very least, and possibly at the very most, that someone will shake their finger at North Korea while saying "naughty, naughty Kim."

    by: Sensi
    February 08, 2016 4:39 AM
    "North Korea says it could stop nuclear tests in exchange for the U.S. scrapping joint military drills with South Korea, while also calling for a peace treaty with the U.S. in an echo of demands that Washington had rejected in the past." (Associated Press)

    Obviously the US agenda is not peace or to decrease tensions but on the contrary to preserve them as a pretext to keep forces stationed and to meddle over there, so close to China (Pivot to Asia, etc). Deploying any anti-missile (w/ radar) system close to China would be exactly like in the Russian case: claiming an imaginary "threat" -Iran for the system put to contain Russia- while the only purpose is to spy deep into the country next door.

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