News

N. Korean Missile Announcement Considered a Slap to Diplomacy

Diplomats and analysts are generally pessimistic international pressure will prompt North Korea to halt a planned rocket launch in mid-April, raising questions of whether diplomacy with the reclusive state has failed. 

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon became the latest prominent voice to express opposition to North Korea's upcoming missile launch.

"I urge the DPRK [North Korea] authorities to refrain from any such act, which will destabilize the situation and peace and stability in the Korean peninsular and which is against the aspiration and inspiration of the international community," the U.N. chief said.

Ban said the launch would clearly violate Security Council resolutions and that he will raise the issue at next week's international nuclear security summit here in Seoul.

Sovereign right


North Korea says it has a sovereign right to put scientific satellites into space.  But the reclusive state is under sanctions for its nuclear and missile-development programs.  Amid concern Pyongyang is trying to put a nuclear warhead atop multi-stage missiles, it is restricted from space launches.

A North Korean communique threatens war with South Korea and its allies if Pyongyang's nuclear program is a subject of discussion at next week's Seoul summit.

Caution

Analysts say, although such rhetoric from the North is no cause for immediate alarm, it is prudent to be cautious.

Harvard University Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs senior fellow William Tobey served on the National Security Council staff in three U.S. administrations.

"They [North Korea] say crazy things every week," Tobey said. "But every once in a while they also undertake some crazy actions.  They sank a South Korean corvette.  They shelled a South Korean island.  They have committed acts of terrorism in the past.  So the North Korean threat is serious, but it is hard to judge how imminent it is."

Diplomacy

International analysts at conferences in Seoul this week say what is virtually certain is that Pyongyang's launch announcement chills substantive diplomacy for the foreseeable future, including hopes for resuming six-nation talks on North Korea's nuclear programs.

In Washington's view, it destroys an agreement made with Pyongyang last month under which the United States was to provide food aid in exchange for a partial freeze of North Korea's nuclear programs.

To former CIA senior analyst Sue Mi Terry it is part of a cycle of North Korea following agreements with acts that effectively sabotage those deals. Terry, now a senior East Asia research scholar at Columbia University, says "We're on a path to nowhere", with few options utilizing the same strategy. 

"Continuation of U.S.-South Korean military exercises, amped-up interdiction efforts, enhanced sanctions and, of course, going back to China yet one more time to really pressure the Chinese to say, 'Come on, this is now under the new leadership and you really have to do something about it,'" Terry recommends instead.

Some diplomats, analysts and members of the intelligence community believe Pyongyang hardliners in the military and political leadership are undermining what North Korea's envoys may be trying to accomplish in good faith.

Satellite launch

Analysts say evidence of this is that the satellite launch must have been in the works for a long time - certainly before North Korea's diplomats were finalizing the deal announced with Washington on February 29.

A former adviser to the U.S. Congress on weapons of mass destruction, Sharon Squassoni, is the director of the proliferation prevention program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

"These latest moves by North Korea have surprised even some of the most seasoned North Korean watchers," Squassoni said. "I was in Pyongyang late last year before Kim Jong Il died.  The people we spoke with in the government seemed open to cooperation.  So I think this is something that predates the ascendance of Kim Jong Un to leadership in North Korea."

Succession


The younger Kim succeeded his late father in December.  Many of the prominent North Korea watchers believe the transition is secure.  But former CIA analyst Terry, who was also a National Security Council director for the Northeast Asia region, does not agree.

"The succession process is not going so smoothly.  And, Kim Jong Un is still in the process of trying to solidify his support from the leadership," noted Terry. "This whole sequence of events shows, that, I believe, [there is] internal dissent in North Korea.  So it is just an inherently more unstable situation in North Korea and therefore the whole issue becomes more dangerous."

Terry, Tobey and Suqassoni spoke at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies in Seoul prior to their participation at a conference "What Does North Korea Want?: A Deal or a Crisis?"  

South Korean officials say in view of the growing threat from the North's long-range missiles, they are working to finalize an agreement with the United States on extending the range of the South's arsenal.

Currently South Korea's ballistic missiles are limited to a range of 300 kilometers and a payload weight up to 500 kilograms.


Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: jose
March 22, 2012 11:46 AM
I swear to god if they launch a missile mexico is going to war with those no good commies and we will do it right, Unlike those politicly correct nauseating americans trying not to offend any body, We mexicans live to offend everyone.

by: NVO
March 22, 2012 10:22 AM
Where is all the FAKE crying?!?!? Where is all the FAKE crying for the Supreme Buffoon whom is now in Hades(the local jail) then will be transferred to Gehenna AFTER the Great White Throne Judgement? The FAKE crying was a SHAM so people would not be thrown into jail. Leave the tryranical regime behind and exodus that SECULAR country!

by: Mike
March 22, 2012 9:09 AM
It almost seems that it's the old guard that is hell bent on showing off their military might , and it's Kim Jong Un that doesn't want to continue in such foolish and dangerous practices.

by: Bill
March 22, 2012 7:08 AM
This isn't some stupid regional conflict here. WWI got out of hand because super powers got involved in a regional conflict. If this escalates we could be seeing WW3 right in front of us.

by: Bret Talma
March 22, 2012 7:05 AM
Yep...as usual blame Obama. The N Koreans built their nuclear bombs under Bush. Obama cannot win with you fools. I would let them starve! The rest can flee to their friends in China.

by: NR Ghee
March 22, 2012 6:47 AM
This is not a missile announcement, it's a satellite announcement. To that end I can't help but see this article as fear mongering.

by: Russ
March 22, 2012 6:41 AM
Obama thinks,he is better then all other Presidents that tried to get the North Koreans to dump there Nuke program.Just face it,Obama is the biggest falure in foreign policy EVER!!

by: steve j.
March 22, 2012 6:38 AM
Anyone who is suprised is STUPID!
Stupid is is stupid does.
NOBAMA2012!

by: Rosalyn
March 22, 2012 6:16 AM
Here we go again. The US wants to be the policeman of the world. You are impoverished, Uncle S, you can't afford this. You are falling behind others in technology and standard of living and nearly every other area. Give it up!

by: jose
March 22, 2012 5:31 AM
You can tell who's been eating good in that dreaded country, The dear fat leader, His people are going to turn on him and eat him because he is the only pig left in that country devoid of cats and dogs and birds won't even fly over that place cause they know there isn't a grain of rice to spare.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impacti
X
Michael Bowman
June 28, 2015 10:05 PM
Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video US Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impact

Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Syrian Refugees Return to Tal Abyad

Syrian refugees in Turkey confirm they left their hometown of Tal Abyad because of intense fighting and coalition airstrikes, not because Kurdish fighters were engaged in ethnic cleansing, as some Turkish officials charged. VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer, in Tal Abyad, finds that civilians coming back to the town agree, as we hear in this report narrated by Roger Wilkison.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Chemical-Sniffing Technology Fights Australia's Graffiti Vandals

Cities and towns all over the world spend huge amounts of resources battling graffiti writers who deface buildings, public transport vehicles and even monuments. Authorities in Sydney, Australia, hope a new chemical-sniffing technology finally will stop vandals from scribbling on walls in the passenger areas of commuter trains. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Cambodia Struggling to Curb Child Labor

Earlier this year a United Nations report found 10 percent of Cambodian children aged 7-14 are working – one of the highest rates in the region – and said one in four children in that age bracket are forced to quit school to help their families. Although the child labor rate has dropped over the past decade, Cambodia has a lot more to do – including keeping more children in school. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.

VOA Blogs