North Korea’s Launch a Surprise:
As of yesterday, the consensus was that the DPRK’s Eunha 3 (Galaxy) ballistic missile was being dismantled due to a “technical” problem. This was a relatively easy-to-accept narrative, given North Korea’s four previous similar, but failed, missile launch attempts in 1998, 2006, 2009, and April 2012. But to the surprise of most in the international community, this morning the world saw evidence of a potentially concerning possibly “game changing” event – in the form of the DPRK’s first successful intercontinental ballistic missile launch. This clearly shows just how truly little the world knows about one of the world’s most closed and secretive states.
DPRK Missile Launch Implications:
The international community may consider further sanctions, but the PRC (a permanent UNSC member with veto power) may or may not support another sanction against its ally, the DPRK. Alternatively, certain states may opt to enforce domestic sanctions against North Korea unilaterally.
Even with further UN or domestic-based sanctions, it is also unclear how much more influence more sanctions will have on the reclusive DPRK, given that it is currently one of the most sanctioned countries in the world. The US will put more pressure on the PRC to compel the DPRK that it should refrain from further such acts, although this will probably have relatively little effect. Japan, may react most noticeably, in the form of greater internal public and political sentiment and pressure to revamp its constitution to allow its “self-defense” forces to be used in a broader way for self protection against possible future North Korean provocative acts.This will continue to further aggravate the ongoing “Confucian Cold War.” between Japan, the Korean peninsula, and mainland China.
Missile Launch as Strategic Timing:
The North’s missile launch (and possible satellite orbit) was purposely timed to fall within the timeline trifecta of (1) the centennial of the birth of North Korea’s founder, Kim Il-Sung; (2) year anniversary of Kim Jong-il’s death; and (3) upcoming presidential elections on December 19 (possibly shifting support to conservative Saenuri candidate, Park Geun-hye, given her relative hawkish stance relating to the DPRK). Kim Jong-un essentially “doubled down” on his political capital with the launch, and subsequently his political power base has been solidified–at least in the short term–through the North’s successful launch within (rather than past) its original pre-December 22nd trifecta timeline.
South Korea’s Possible Response:
South Korea will work with the U.S. to possibly push for more UN sanctions, given that North Korea’s missile launch would be in violation of UN Resolution 1718 and 1874. Now that the North has demonstrated its successful intercontinental missile launch technology (and apparent satellite orbit), this will also put South Korean military forces on further edge, given past provocations. In contrast to the North, South Korea has yet to successfully launch a satellite into orbit, which will further compound a possible “satellite gap” perception–somewhat similar to the “missile gap” and space technology gap that pervaded during the U.S.-USSR Cold War period.
North Korea’s Next Move:
North Korea is predictably unpredictable, generally to its benefit. Kim Jong-un has employed a “one step forward, one step back” policy of modernization on the one hand, counterbalanced by seemingly provocative acts to placate its military. The NLL border region is likely the next area where possible conflicts in the future may occur. Cyberattacks is also another increasingly used option by the DPRK against South Korea, although this could be used against any other perceived foe in the future.
To view a related op-ed piece written by him on Global Times (China’s English newspaper), click HERE.
To view Jasper Kim (Founder/CEO) discuss this issue with CNN, click HERE or view BELOW.
To view a separate CNN TV interview clip with accompanying online report click HERE and VIEW below:
For a Bloomberg/Businessweek interview clip, see below (December 12, 2012):