Yesterday, or this morning at 9:00am, North Korea launched yet another satellite into orbit. This launch was the third satellite launch to occur in North Korea, the other two took place in April and December of 2012. The April launch was unsuccessful, but the December launch put an object into orbit, though no one has verified its contact with North Korean controls. Yesterday, news of the launch of minimal, with South Korean papers carrying the brunt of reporting, but now everyone has joined the party. This post will analyze the launch on February 7, 2016 and show a little into the reasoning behind the launch.
Yesterday’s launch had a similar result to the one in December 2012. Several hours after the launch, North Korean state media released a statement saying that North Korea had successfully launched an Earth Observation satellite into orbit. So, why is the world concerned about an Earth Observation satellite?
The answer is simple. North Korea has little evidence to show that this launch was purely peaceful. Also, a rocket similar to the one launched today is required to carry nuclear weapons. This compounded with North Korea’s intent to miniturize a nuclear warhead is what is driving the fear in the eyes of foreign countries, and it is doing so rightfully. International states should worry about North Korea, even more so when it is attempting to create a nuclear warhead capable of striking any country in the world.
Yesterday’s launch has placed the ball in the international court. With a slow response to the nuclear test last month, it is easy to ratchet up the response to an astronomical level. This, however, is a deadly game. Taking the nuclear test and the satellite launch as one is something the international community should not do. The United Nations, America, South Korea, Japan and all the other nations and entities with interests in the region should conduct a response to each as individual actions and work accordingly. Yes this may seam like backing down, but it actually is not and can create an international response that address each action appropriately and avoid conflict and future development.
The launch, mixed with the nuclear test, has refueled the THAAD debate in South Korea. Washington and Seoul have vowed to discuss the deployment of the THAAD defense system in Seoul, citing the growing threat of North Korea. Deployment of THAAD in Seoul, however, is also being challenged by China and Russia. China sees THAAD deployment in Seoul, for fear that the system will be used against China as well. Russia is against the THAAD deployment because it may undermine security in the region. Wether THAAD will deployed in Seoul or not, the case for the defense continues to grow. I used to be wary of THAAD deployment, but seeing the North Korean threat accelerate its provocative actions, even I am starting to see the need for some sort of defense system in Seoul.
While the test has major inclinations for the international community, internally it serves an even greater purpose. The launch, coming one month after a nuclear test, shows the rapid acceleration of North Korea’s missile and defense systems, which it sees as crucial to its survival. Also, each of the actions this year have come before major holidays in North Korea. The nuclear test was two days before Kim Jung-Un’s birthday and the satellite launch was about a week before Kim Jung-Il’s birthday. Also, as I eluded to in my analysis of the nuclear test, the Seventh Congress of the Workers Party is in May this year, which will mark the first congress since Kim Jung-Il was named successor. Kim Jung-Un authorized the nuclear test and launch to solidify his position as supreme leader, but also to show the people that the defense abilities, and the scientific field have advanced dramatically under his watchful eye. Therefore, the tests have been more to serve an internal locust of establishing the third Kim as a leader. This conclusion can also be reached by the fact that Kim has little regard for international condemnation or any fear of sanctions. Launching the satellite yesterday, while waiting for a round of sanctions following the nuclear test last month, shows – to his people – his fearlessness and his commitment to the advancement of North Korea under all circumstances. For these reasons, I will argue that the nuclear test and the launch have been mainly to support an internal agenda as its main priority, though there still exists some external locusts for conducting such tests.
I honestly never thought I would be writing this post, at least today. North Korea has clearly shown its pursuit is to aggravate the status-quo and garner a United States response, as well as an international one. However, the timing of the two events also shows the internal agenda of the tests. Kim Jung-Un is out to showcase his muscle before the big day in May, when the congress meets. He also showing his undying loyalty to his father and grandfather by placing the events around major holidays devoted to the leaders. A carefully coordinated response to the nuclear test and the satellite launch are necessary in order to not aggravate the North into any more hostile actions. The internal locusts for these events must also be addressed by the international community, which is still solidifying its response to the nuclear test. Hopefully, the response will be appropriate to the actions, currently all we can do is wait and see.