Reactions to North Korea's December 12 Satellite Launch
North Korean Statements
Opposition Party and Presidential Candidate's Statements (translated into English, via Witness to Transformation).
Japan-ROK Foreign Ministers' Telephone Talks (via Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan)
Iran's Top Commander Felicitates North Korea on Successful Missile Launch (Fars News Agency)
Reaction from Congress
December 19, 2012
Further technical analysis is likely to show that North Korea’s recent success was rooted in Iran’s orbital launch of its Omid satellite atop the Safir satellite carrier in February 2009. . . An integrated approach to analyzing the full life cycle of a North Korean–Iranian transaction is long overdue—and now possible given access to key defectors in Seoul who have worked in North Korean state trading companies.
December 18, 2012
But if there’s a clear victim from North Korea’s latest actions, that victim is the unification of the two Koreas – a notion that has gathered momentum in the last decade. //The most active debate now underway must be on how to find the most effective and rational way of dealing with Pyongyang’s occasional tantrums, tantrums that render a deathblow to long held dreams of a united peninsula.
We like to say that violating UNSC resolutions has “consequences,” (if this were a movie, we’d cue the kettle drums at this point). Yes, but so does promulgating resolutions. At this point, our hands are tied more than the North’s because not to seem weak we are bound to stick with enforcing and even strengthening the resolutions (which are demonstrably ineffective) whereas the North is free to continue launching its missiles.
Euan Graham, The Satellite State's Ulterior Motive, 38 North:It’s not about persuading North Korea to give up its one big theatrical prop. Pyongyang is as reluctant to give up its nuclear program as the producers of War Horse are unlikely to jettison their equestrian puppet. Rather, it’s about ensuring that North Korea doesn’t use whatever it has and cooperates with international institutions to improve its economy, political structures, and human rights record.
Brian Weeden, Almost Everything You've Heard about the North Korean Space Launch is Wrong, Wired:For all the variables, the radical but supportable conclusion is that Kim Jong Un’s decision to launch the Unha-3 rocket one week before South Korea’s presidential election was a calculated act to boost Park Geun-hye’s chances of victory. There has been speculation that Moon’s pro-engagement platform may benefit from the launch. This may persuade some voters, but on balance a modest net marginal gain is more likely to accrue to the Park ticket. In such a tight race this could be decisive.
Within the U.S. government, top national security officials likely had access to data sources that were unaffected by North Korean disinformation. However, it is possible that different intelligence sources could have been driven conflicting conclusions, leading to disagreement over what the reality was. This may have played a role in catching some within the U.S. government off guard.
December 16, 2012
Pyongyang's Provocation, New York Post Editorial:But this policy of patiently waiting for verifiable changes in DPRK policies possesses several risks. First, it provides North Koreans with additional time to refine their nuclear and missile programs. Second, the current stalemate is inherently unstable. The DPRK could at any time resume testing its nuclear weapons and long-range ballistic missiles, likely to confirm and support its quest for a reliable nuclear deterrent but also possibly out of simple frustration about being ignored. The strategy also risks allowing a minor incident to escalate through the ROK’s “proactive deterrence” policy, which calls for responding immediately and disproportionately to any DPRK military provocations to deter further aggression.
There are no easy answers for the US and its allies, but the Obama administration could begin by tightening the screws.
That means adding unilateral sanctions against companies that do business with this murderous regime — and closing loopholes in existing UN sanctions that have been exploited by China.
December 13, 2012
Doug Bandow, "North Korea's Rocket Man," The American Spectator:
There are several important lessons from the latest incident. First, Kim Jong-un — whether as symbolic leader or genuine ruler — is acting as a true successor to his father and grandfather. There has been no improvement in human rights; to the contrary, the regime has tightened border enforcement, sharply reducing the flow of refugees across the Yalu into China. So far the leadership has exhibited greater interest in increasing party control over government economic activity than in relaxing party control over private economic activity. The hint of “glasnost” after the failed rocket launch in April has not been followed by any evidence of “perestroika.”
John Bolton, "Obama's Indifference to North Korea = Nuclear Danger," Fox News:
Rather than undertaking the admittedly arduous task of persuading China’s leadership to follow the logic of its own opposition to Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons and help reunify Korea, Washington has simply accepted the continued existence of this bizarre, nuclear-capable dictatorship. Only Beijing can strong-arm Pyongyang to renounce nuclear weapons or move it toward reunification. China has done neither. In fact, its trade has substantially increased recently, even as South Korea, Japan and others have reduced theirs.
Joseph DeTrani, "Change is Possible With North Korea," McClatchy:
It is hoped, Kim Jong-Un can pocket this Dec. 12 launch and use it against those hardliners who may agitate against his leadership, claiming that any type of change or reform is weakness. Kim Jong-Un defied the international community and launched a missile that put a satellite in orbit, in violation of U.N. Security Council Resolutions. He should stop here and now work with those moderates he recently appointed to insure that North Korea immediately returns to negotiations and unilaterally announces a moratorium on all missile launches and nuclear tests.
Editors, "About Yesterday," 38 North:
But unfortunately, we fell into a trap cited by Professor Wohlstetter, “the very human tendency to pay attention to signals that support current expectations about enemy behavior.” We looked at all this information through the prism of the North’s announcement that it was having technical problems and then thought about how those problems might affect a launch. Our mistake was to conclude that fixing the difficulty with the first stage would require its return to the missile assembly plant. Since it was clear from the photos that hadn’t happened yet, we assumed it would still have to happen and then projected how long those repairs might take.
South Korea had also just renegotiated a long-standing agreement with the United States to allow it to develop a longer-range missile capable of reaching all of North Korea. In response, the North’s Foreign Ministry spokesman denounced the move on October 10, adding, “The U.S. has so far stepped up sanctions against the DPRK, calling for preventing its satellite launch for peaceful purposes while claiming that satellite also uses the ballistic missile technology. But, now it is in a position unable to make any excuses even though the DPRK launches a long-range missile for military purposes.”
Joel S. Wit and Jenny Town, "Launch This: Why Barack Obama Needs to Reset his North Korea Policy," Foreign Policy:
The White House should launch a policy review led by a prominent American official or former official, like the one conducted by former Secretary of Defense William Perry after the North Korean rocket test in 1998. The review would provide a realistic assessment of developments since Kim Jung Un took power a year ago. It would focus on the still ongoing political transition that has led to questions about regime stability, the future of Pyongyang's domestic policy given hints that Kim may dismantle his father's legacy, and the foreign policy direction of a stronger, more confident North Korea. Any review must also consider options for firming up existing defense programs and exploring new ones -- such as theater ballistic missile defense -- to safeguard the security of the United States and its allies against a North Korea bristling with nuclear-tipped missiles.
December 12, 2012
Paul Carroll, North Korea's Rocket Launch: Who's up, Who's Down? Ploughshares Fund Blog:
North Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has the lead in dealing with the United States and other nations, and when the military is “up” they are typically down. This launch, like the 2006 and 2009 nuclear tests, will likely make their job much harder – to paraphrase what an actual high-level North Korean diplomat said to U.S. counterparts after the 2006 test. In other words, Pyongyang’s internal pecking order has shifted, and unless the young Kim has a longer term plan to re-engage internationally in a positive way, the North’s diplomats will be even more constrained than others.
Victor Cha, "North Korea's Successful Rocket Launch," CSIS:
There has been an unspoken tendency in the United States to discount these tests as yet another foolish attempt by the technologically backward and bizarre country. This is no longer acceptable. The apparent success of this test makes North Korea one of the only non-allied countries outside of China and the Soviet Union to develop long-range missile technology that could potentially reach the United States.
Patrick Cronin, "North Korea Hits its Mark," CNN:
Kim Jong Un appears bent on achieving permanent nuclear-weapon-state status for North Korea. Kim 3.0’s about-face on a missile and nuclear moratorium, missile diplomacy, and recent revelations about proliferation off the Korean Peninsula undercut hopes that the younger leader with an outgoing style is pursuing reform. The peninsula remains the most militarized zone in the region, and a single provocation along the lines of either the sinking of the South Korean naval vessel Cheonan or the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island in 2010 could escalate and bring not just the two Koreas to blows, but also risk war between their major-power allies, the United States and China.
Michael Green, "Sometimes a Rocket is Just a Rocket, Anna," Foreign Policy:
"The problem is that the consequences of North Korean weapons testing are not cyclical -- they are linear. Each missile and nuclear test, even a failed test, represents a new milestone in Pyongyang's well-advertised march towards marrying nuclear warheads to ballistic missiles. This most recent test appears to have ended in the successful separation of multiple stage Rockets. Recently, a senior KPA general was reported to have told military officers at a speech in Pyongyang that the nation has already achieved the ability to mount small warheads on medium range missiles. Bravado or not, that is clearly the North's goal and it grows closer with this most recent test."
Stephan Haggard, "Slave to the Blog: Missile Launch Edition," Witness to Transformation:
"Beyond the non-trivial internal political value of the launch, its hard to see what the test gets Pyongyang vis-à-vis the Five Parties except predictable statements of alarm and outrage. Whether that outrage translates into any new constraints on the regime is another issue; it may end up paying surprisingly little."
Daryl Kimball, "Patience has not Been a Virtue," Foreign Policy:
Although North Korea's stubborn leaders may not be willing to negotiate away their nuclear weapons program altogether, they may still be willing to abandon portions of it in exchange for improved relations with the United States and the international community. . .Doing nothing in the face of the risk of new and more dangerous North Korean nuclear and missile capabilities is not a prudent option. When pursued, the strategy that has succeeded best in limiting North Korea's nuclear and missile potential over the years has been U.S.-led disarmament diplomacy. We shouldn't be afraid to engage.
Bruce Klingner, "North Korean Missile Defiance Requires Stern Response," Heritage Foundation:
Washington and its allies should submit a new U.N. Security Council resolution requiring more extensive sanctions on North Korea for yet another U.N. violation. The resolution should invoke Chapter VII, Article 42, of the U.N. Charter, which allows for enforcement by military means. This would enable naval ships to intercept and board North Korean ships suspected of transporting precluded nuclear, missile, and conventional arms, components, or technology.
Michael Mazza, "How Obama Got North Korea Wrong," The Diplomat:
"Shooting the missile down would have undermined what is perhaps the regime’s greatest myth — that it is powerful and feared abroad. Now, that myth has been reinforced. Intercepting the rocket in flight might also have sown dissension within the ruling clique, as military and party leaders could not have helped but notice that the United States had never taken such bold action when Kim Jong-il was alive. But in sticking to the old script, Washington passed up an opportunity to destabilize the regime, a necessity if America’s ultimate goal is to reunify the Korean Peninsula under Seoul’s democratic leadership."
William Pesek, "Take a Deep Breath over North Korea's Missile Launch," Bloomberg:
"An alternative view is that Kim did what he had to do to consolidate power enough to try a different tack from his father. Educated in Switzerland and steeped in a world view that sees the Cold War as ancient history, Kim the younger could be a very different leader. He seems far more open to new ideas, more welcoming of the foreign media and unafraid to be more accessible and less god-like to the masses than his predecessors. It could be an elaborate head fake, of course. Or it could be a sign that North Korea is now in more thoughtful hands. That includes a willingness to ignore China's preferences. China did not want this launch."
Scott Snyder, "North Korea’s Satellite Launch: Revealing International Failures and the Potential for Cooperation," Asia Unbound:
"For two decades, North Korea’s nuclear push has been the single most effective catalyst for regional cooperation in Northeast Asia, yet North Korea is also the expert at exploiting differences among its neighbors. A North Korean satellite test may provide a basis for strengthened Japan-South Korea cooperation despite deepening differences over history and territorial issues. Further North Korean provocations may yet diminish strategic mistrust between the United States and China. If there is a common threat that should rightly overcome such mistrust and galvanize regional cooperation among the United States, Japan, South Korea, and China, it most certainly should be the prospect of a thirty-year old leader of a terrorized population with his finger on a nuclear trigger."
David Wright, "North Korea Successfully Launches a Satellite, " All Things Nuclear:
One interesting question is whether North Korea really had last-minute technical problems that it managed to fix, or whether it orchestrated a campaign to fool those watching the launch. On December 10, the Korean Central News Agency released a statement saying that scientists “found technical deficiency in the first-stage control engine module of the rocket carrying the satellite and decided to extend the satellite launch period up to Dec. 29 [from Dec. 22].” A South Korean news story the next day reported that the rocket had been covered with a “camouflage net;” if true, that may have led to press stories that the rocket had been removed from the launch pad to be repaired. It’s possible this was intended to reduce the number of monitoring sensors that were deployed by the U.S., Japan, and South Korea to collect information about the launch.
"North Korea's Latest Provocation," New York Times editorial:
There never have been easy answers on North Korea, which uses provocative behavior to try to extort better deals from the United States and its partners. The international community should enforce existing sanctions and tighten them, and keep the door open for dialogue. China clearly can influence the Kim regime to stop its provocative actions, including any new nuclear tests and missile sales to Iran. But history suggests that China’s fear of North Korean instability will once again trump concerns about the North’s nuclear ambitions.
"Stand Firm Against North Korea," Washington Post editorial:
It’s likely, though, that the new leader is hoping to repeat the trick of his father and grandfather before him: luring the United States and South Korea into trying to stop his misbehavior with “engagement,” complete with bribes of cash and food. Pyongyang has a long record of promising to stop its missile tests or to freeze its nuclear program in exchange for such aid. It then pockets the reward and reneges. The latest instance came in April, when the North staged a missile test just weeks after agreeing with the Obama administration on a freeze of its programs in exchange for 240,000 tons of food (which were never delivered) and de facto U.S. recognition of the new ruler.