Despite pressure from the U.S. and its allies, North Korea will test launch its new long-range missile system in mid-April. The government will most likely bring this to the U.N. Security Council and let them take further action. U.N. actions will not get far without support from north Korea’s neighbor, China.
There are also questions on if putting more pressure on North Korea will do anything. After the Security Council condemned its previous long-range rocket launch in 2009, North Korea responded by kicking out U.N. nuclear inspectors, pulling out of aid-for-disarmament negotiations and conducting its second detonation of an atomic device. “At minimum, there has to be a statement of criticism” at the Security Council, said Gordon Flake, a Washington-based Korea analyst. “The question is how North Korea will react, and history suggests it won’t react well.”
The stakes are higher than they were in 2009 as the chance of tensions on the Korean peninsula to escalate into conflict are more now than they were then. South Korea’s government was criticised for what was seen as a weak response to a North Korean artillery barrage that killed four people on a front-line island in 2010. Earlier that year, North Korea was believed to have torpedoed a South Korean warship, killing 46 sailors. The North denied responsibility.
North Korea says the missile launch is intended to place an observation satellite into orbit. But the U.S. and others view the launch as a cover for a test of an intercontinental ballistic missile that one day could carry a nuclear warhead. Also if the three stage rocket works parts of the united states and Europe are in it range and it would violate a U.N. ban.
Obama, facing re-election and accused by opposition Republicans of foolishness for reaching out to North Korea, pointedly visited the heavily militarized Korean border last week during a trip to South Korea for a nuclear summit. North Korea’s new leader, Kim Jong Un, previously had made the visit from the northern side.
The U.S. is urging China, North Korea’s most important ally and trading partner, to put its neighbor into line, but it seems unlikely China will do anything. North Korea has promoted the launch as a sign of the nation’s strength and progress as it marks the centennial of the birth of its founder, Kim Il Sung. Recent satellite imagery showed preparations under way at the launch site.
The launch also may be an effort to consolidate the authority of Kim’s grandson, Kim Jong Un, who is establishing a third generation of dynastic rule. While China is doubtlessly frustrated by the North’s conduct and has made a stronger public statement than it did before the 2009 launch, its ultimate goal will be to preserve the still-fragile government of Kim Jong Un and prevent a regime collapse on its own frontier.
He also doubted that Washington would risk its own relations with China by taking a new step: penalizing Chinese companies that do business with North Korea.