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DPRK April 2009 Rocket Launch

This briefing book links to expert analyses on the North Korean rocket launch on April 5, 2009, and also contains a news digest of stories written in the aftermath of the test. For an NCNK report on US and Economic Sanctions on the DPRK, click here.

Op-eds and opinion pieces about the April 5, 2009 DPRK Rocket Launch by NCNK members and others. 

Last updated April 13, 2009.

NCNK members are indicated below with an asterisk (*). Views expressed by individual National Committee on North Korea members are their own and should not be attributed to the National Committee itself.

*Morton Abramowitz
Ending North Korea's Endless Nuclear Drama
Foreign Policy Magazine
April, 2009

Arms Control Association
ACA Experts Condemn DPRK Rocket Launch: Urge U.S. and Allied Leaders to Maintain Focus on Denuclearization Goals ACA Experts Condemn DPRK Rocket Launch: Urge U.S. and Allied Leaders to Maintain Focus on Denuclearization Goals
April 5, 2009

Chosun Ilbo Editorial
Why North Korea's Rocket Launch is Illegal
April 6, 2009

*Ralph Cossa
Here We Go Again
PacNet No. 24, March 26, 2009

John Feffer
A Need for Restraint over N. Korea's Satellite
Boston Globe, April 5, 2009

International Crisis Group
North Korea's Missile Launch: The Risks of Overreaction
Asia Briefing N°91, March 31, 2009

Korea Central News Agency
Kim Jong Il Observes Launch of Satellite Kwangmyongsong-2
KCNA on DPRK's Successful Launch of Satellite Kwangmyongsong-2
April 5, 2009

*Marcus Noland
North Korea Missile Test: Remedial Action
Asia Pacific Bulletin
April 6, 2009

*Scott Snyder
North Korea's Missile Test: Off-target?
Global Security
April 6, 2009

Edward Reed
In The Rocket's Shadow: North Korea Reacts
Asia Foundation Blog
April 8, 2009

*Leon Sigal
It's Time for us to Rev up Negotiations
Chicago Tribune, April 1, 2009

David Wright
Examining North Korea's satellite launch vehicle
Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, March 24, 2009

News Digest

April 25, 2009

On April 24, the UN Sanctions Committee announced sanctions on the Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation [KOMID], Korea Ryongbong General Corporation and Tanchon Commercial Bank, the first time that the UN has sanctioned individual North Korean companies, according to the Washington Post.

The Hankyoreh reported that the list of three was a compromise between the U.S./Japanese push for ten firms and Chinese/Russian resistance to any sanctions.

After the Sanctions Committee's announcement, North Korea's Deputy U.N. Ambassador Pak Tok Hun told reporters "The discussion on the sanctions in the Security Council against (North) Korea for its satellite launch is itself a wanton violation of the United Nations charter," and announced that it would begin reprocessing plutonium at its Yongbyon nuclear plant.

April 14, 2009

On April 13, 2009 the United Nations Security Council issued a Presidential Statement regarding the DPRK's Rocket Launch. The statement condemns the launch, calling it a contravention of UNSCR 1718 (2006) and "agrees to adjust the measures imposed by paragraph 8 of resolution 1718 (2006) through the designation of entities and goods." Paragraph 8 is the most punitive provision of 1718. It has never been fully implemented.

In a statement released on KCNA, the DPRK rejected the "brigandish" presidential statement. Saying that the "the six-party talks have turned into a platform for infringing upon the sovereignty of the DPRK," the DPRK stated that it "will never participate in the talks any longer nor it will be bound to any agreement of the six-party talks." IAEA inspectors have been asked to leave Yongbyon, and the DPRK has vowed to restart its nuclear program.

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Jiang Yu, in her remarks released on April 14, stated the following

China always holds that the reaction of the Security Council should be aimed at ensuring the overall interests of peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia, promoting the Six-Party Talks and the denuclearization process on the Peninsula, and safeguarding the international non-proliferation regime. In light of this spirit, China disagrees of a Security Council resolution on the launch, let alone new sanctions against the DPRK.

April 5, 2009

On April 5, 2009 the DPRK's Korean Central News Agency issued a statement saying "Our scientists and technicians have succeeded in sending communications satellite Kwangmyongsong-2 through the carrier rocket Unha-2 into orbit according to our national space development project."

ROK news agencies have confirmed the satellite launch, though they say that no satellite was put into orbit. Japan has announced that no debris fell on Japanese territory.

In response to a request from Japan, the 15-member United Nations Security Council will meet in an emergency session at 3 PM on Sunday afternoon.

Leaders from the United States, Republic of Korea, Japan and European Union, among others, condemned the rocket launch. President Obama called the launch "a clear violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1718, which expressly prohibits North Korea from conducting ballistic missile-related activities of any kind" and urged the DPRK "to refrain from further provocative actions."

China and Russia's reactions were more reserved. According to the Washington Post, Russia's Deputy UN Envoy Igor Shcherbak said "Every state has the right to to the peaceful use of outer space." Chinese Ambassador Zhang Yesui said that "Regarding the reaction of the Security Council, our position is that it has to be cautious and proportionate."

In earlier communications, the DPRK called the satellite launch "a legitimate right of a sovereign state in which no one can interfere to use space for peaceful purposes" and "a just work for the prosperity of the country and the nation and progress of humankind." (KCNA, April 2).

Experts at the Arms Control Association (ACA) called the rocket launch "confrontational" and "destabilizing." However, ACA's Greg Thielmann also noted that there are differences in the technical information gained from a satellite launch and the information gained from a long-range ballistic missile test. Thielmann said "Unlike the 2006 ballistic missile test, North Korea's satellite launch permits it to test some, but not all of the performance required by a military system. For example, the 2009 test provides no information on whether North Korea has successfully designed the front end of a long-range military missile, which must withstand the severe stress of reentry through the atmosphere-not a trivial technological challenge."

In comments at a conference at the US-Korea Institute (SAIS) on April 6, Ambassador Charles (Jack) Pritchard, while noting that the consequences of a launch would adversely affect peace and security in the region, argued that the different interpretations of whether or not the April 5 rocket launch violated UN Resolutions could have been anticipated. Following the adoption of UNSCR 1695 (2006), China and the Russian Federation expressed their concern about the DPRK's failure to provide adequate advance notice prior to their July 5, 2006 long-range missile test. In contrast with US and EU diplomats, the two nations did not condemn the test itself. Therefore, the DPRK's advance notification in March might have allayed the principle Chinese and Russian concerns.

Pritchard also noted that the U.S., ROK and Japanese assertion that the test was a clear violation of 1718 is not iron-clad. Neither UNSCR 1695 nor UNSCR 1718 specifies that a satellite launch would be illegal. The 1967 Outer Space Treaty,to which the recently DPRK acceded, protects the rights of states to engage in space exploration, a right reiterated in the Bush administration's United States Space Policy in August 2006.