Evil Axis Launched

, Daniel Allen, Leave a comment

Despite international warnings, North Korea conducted a long-range missile test on April 4th, supposedly intending to launch a communications satellite into orbit. The international community warned against the launch because the same delivery system that would put a satellite into space could be used to strike a blow to a neighboring country or possibly even Hawaii or Alaska. The launch was another step toward the reclusive country’s goal of becoming a nuclear power.

The American Enterprise Institute (AEI) gathered a panel of experts to discuss the changes wrought by North Korea’s missile launch, which has serious implications for U.S. allies in the region and the future of six-party talks with North Korea. Although the government and mainstream media have been quick to deem the launch a failure, it remains to be seen whether or not the launch was, in fact, a failure. If the North Koreans are able to learn enough from this launch to make the next one more effective, they will surely deem it a success.

Bruce Bechtol of the U.S. Marine Corps Command and Staff College pointed out that “it was not as successful as it could have been. It certainly was not as successful as the North Koreans wanted it to be. But, it was far more successful than the 2006 launch, and certainly the North Koreans and the Iranians who were present at that launch learned something from it.” He explained further that the missile did successfully go from its first stage to its second stage, and was either well into its second stage or in the beginning of the third and final stage when the failure occurred.

Some listeners at the discussion expressed shock and doubt at the mention of the Iranian presence at the launch, but Bechtol assured them that every missile test that North Korea has performed since the 1980s has had Iranian engineers, scientists and dignitaries present. Emphasizing the information-sharing that takes place between Iran and North Korea, Brechtol advised, “Any missile test by North Korea should be assessed not only for its potential should a missile be launched from the Korean landmass, but what it would mean if such a missile were launched from the Middle East, and who it would threaten.”

There has been varied speculation on the intentions behind the missile test. Some see the test as domestic propaganda. The ailing North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il reportedly suffered a stroke recently, and some see this missile launch as an attempt to win back the confidence of the people.

Another theory is that this display of power is intended to raise the stakes with South Korea and other neighbors, and to alert China to North Korea’s independence.

Yet another theory is that this launch was scheduled to test the new Obama administration. This seems highly unlikely, considering the cost of a missile launch amidst the other concerns facing the North Korean regime. The mainstream media, with analysts at CNN in particular, have a tendency to make the president the center of any event, whether he is in reality or not. This missile test was for a different purpose entirely.

“This launch was conducted because the missile was ready, or at least the North Koreans assessed that it was ready. And because the North Koreans have and had a great deal to gain from proliferation to Iran,” said Brechtol. All other explanations should be considered “ancillary,” he argued.

This was the right time for North Korea to test the missile because they are taking steps toward long-range missile proficiency. As soon as they thought this missile was ready, the next logical step was to test it. And this test certainly did not satisfy North Korean ambitions. Brechtol estimated that within the next “few months or few years” we would see another launch, presumably improved upon from what was learned during the most recent test.

North Korea’s belligerence and dismissal of international pressure doubtless warrants a reaction from neighbors and major powers. Nicholas Eberstadt, a resident scholar at AEI, said that “the first and foremost challenge to the United States is to make sure that penalties and costs are obtained and accrued for the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea).”

Brechtol suggested that North Korea be put back on the list of states that sponsor terrorism because they are, after all, a state that sponsors terrorism including the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka and Hezbollah. Beyond that, the U.S. should encourage South Korea and Japan to further develop their missile defense capabilities, and encourage South Korea to join the Proliferation Security Initiative, a U.S.-led effort to stop the trade and proliferation of banned weapons and technology.

The North Korean test was not considered an imminent threat, but we may have underestimated their determination. If anything good comes of the test it may be to further unite the U.S. and its allies in the region, and may even give Defense Secretary Robert Gates reason to rethink his disposal of missile defense funding in the Department of Defense budget.

The international community warned against the launch because the same delivery system that would put a satellite into space could be used to strike a blow to a neighboring country or possibly even Hawaii or Alaska. The launch was another step toward the reclusive country’s goal of becoming a nuclear power.

The American Enterprise Institute (AEI) gathered a panel of experts to discuss the changes wrought by North Korea’s missile launch, which has serious implications for U.S. allies in the region and the future of six-party talks with North Korea. Although the government and mainstream media have been quick to deem the launch a failure, it remains to be seen whether or not the launch was, in fact, a failure. If the North Koreans are able to learn enough from this launch to make the next one more effective, they will surely deem it a success.

Bruce Bechtol of the U.S. Marine Corps Command and Staff College pointed out that “it was not as successful as it could have been. It certainly was not as successful as the North Koreans wanted it to be. But, it was far more successful than the 2006 launch, and certainly the North Koreans and the Iranians who were present at that launch learned something from it.” He explained further that the missile did successfully go from its first stage to its second stage, and was either well into its second stage or in the beginning of the third and final stage when the failure occurred.

Some listeners at the discussion expressed shock and doubt at the mention of the Iranian presence at the launch, but Bechtol assured them that every missile test that North Korea has performed since the 1980s has had Iranian engineers, scientists and dignitaries present. Emphasizing the information-sharing that takes place between Iran and North Korea, Brechtol advised, “Any missile test by North Korea should be assessed not only for its potential should a missile be launched from the Korean landmass, but what it would mean if such a missile were launched from the Middle East, and who it would threaten.”

There has been varied speculation on the intentions behind the missile test. Some see the test as domestic propaganda. The ailing North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il reportedly suffered a stroke recently, and some see this missile launch as an attempt to win back the confidence of the people.

Another theory is that this display of power is intended to raise the stakes with South Korea and other neighbors, and to alert China to North Korea’s independence.

Yet another theory is that this launch was scheduled to test the new Obama administration. This seems highly unlikely, considering the cost of a missile launch amidst the other concerns facing the North Korean regime. The mainstream media, with analysts at CNN in particular, have a tendency to make the president the center of any event, whether he is in reality or not. This missile test was for a different purpose entirely.

“This launch was conducted because the missile was ready, or at least the North Koreans assessed that it was ready. And because the North Koreans have and had a great deal to gain from proliferation to Iran,” said Brechtol. All other explanations should be considered “ancillary,” he argued.

This was the right time for North Korea to test the missile because they are taking steps toward long-range missile proficiency. As soon as they thought this missile was ready, the next logical step was to test it. And this test certainly did not satisfy North Korean ambitions. Brechtol estimated that within the next “few months or few years” we would see another launch, presumably improved upon from what was learned during the most recent test.

North Korea’s belligerence and dismissal of international pressure doubtless warrants a reaction from neighbors and major powers. Nicholas Eberstadt, a resident scholar at AEI, said that “the first and foremost challenge to the United States is to make sure that penalties and costs are obtained and accrued for the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea).”

Brechtol suggested that North Korea be put back on the list of states that sponsor terrorism because they are, after all, a state that sponsors terrorism including the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka and Hezbollah. Beyond that, the U.S. should encourage South Korea and Japan to further develop their missile defense capabilities, and encourage South Korea to join the Proliferation Security Initiative, a U.S.-led effort to stop the trade and proliferation of banned weapons and technology.

The North Korean test was not considered an imminent threat, but we may have underestimated their determination. If anything good comes of the test it may be to further unite the U.S. and its allies in the region, and may even give Defense Secretary Robert Gates reason to rethink his disposal of missile defense funding in the Department of Defense budget.

Daniel Allen is an intern at the American Journalism Center, a training program run by Accuracy in Media and Accuracy in Academia.

 

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