Failure or success – that is the question

by on 週三, 08 四月 2009 評論
My take on the DPRK missile that took place on Sunday April 5, 2009

The recent rocket launch by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has put the global community in a state of inflated panic. For a launch that was anticipated and given notice by North Korea, our community leaders sure know how to act surprised at a widely-expected rocket launch. The launch in fact took place a day-late of the anticipated 4th April and N. Korea’s neighbours experienced short-lived moments of excitement on Saturday, when the government of Japan mistakenly announced the launch of a rocket that had not yet taken place.

Sunday the 5th and the Aftermath of the Launch

Now that the rocket launch has indeed taken place and declared as a failed launch by the U.S (note: North Korea and the Korean Central News Agency beg to differ), the UN Security Council has brought together nation states to debate on whether or not to punish N. Korea for its apparent breach of UN regulations. In typical fashion, the veto trio of U.S, U.K and France condemn the launch suggesting it contributed to North Korea’s program to develop ballistic missiles. A joint statement from the U.S and the European Union refers to the launch as the development of a ballistic missile capability, which, regardless of the stated purpose, is ‘aimed at providing it with the ability to threaten countries near and far with weapons of mass destruction’. Russia and China have been largely cautious: Russia has asked others to refrain from ‘hasty conclusions’ and China wants to look further into whether DPRK had breached any UN regulations at all in the launch of a pacific nature. The UN Security Council’s meeting on Sunday night dissolved with no apparent agreement, and the existing gaps between the six-nations are wider than ever, with China and Russia on a similar wavelength.

War is on our minds

War is on our nations mind, as it has always been. Diplomatic and intelligence sources in Seoul and Tokyo contend that Pyongyang’s biggest aim was to increase the range of its Taepodong II rocket. In 1998 it launched a predecessor that travelled about 1,060 miles. As much as we have reason to believe that North Korea may be developing their missile ability, analysts say the possibility that North Korea would start an all-out war with the South is low because N. Korea knows its underfunded military is no match for the U.S.-backed modern military of its Southern neighbours. Talks of the U.S being the ultimate targets of N. Korea’s missile tests are also of little statistical proof. In my opinion, the U.S is far from within range considering North Korea’s long-range missile technology

Japan had also earlier hinted that it might shoot down the rocket which prompted me to do some research on the legality of shooting down a North Korean satellite – if it is a satellite at all – and found that the prevention of the launch itself could very well be a violation of the Outer Space Treaty itself, which provides that “Outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, shall be free for exploration and use by all States without discrimination of any kind, on a basis of equality and in accordance with international law, and there shall be free access to all areas of celestial bodies.” In my opinion, any shoot-down at all would not suffice in the name of self-defence, and am therefore glad that there had been no attempts apart from verbal threats. Any action to deter such a launch could fuel a bigger fight than we bargained for.

Instead of uniting in full wrath in condemning N. Korea, with threats of financial sanctions and a travel-ban, our nation states might want to focus on dialoguing with the ‘rogue state’ if ‘peace’ was on our list of objectives.
Until then, we await U.N’s statement because that’s what really counts these days, or is it?

What comes next?

As for the result of the ‘satellite’ launch, North Korea finds itself once more contradicting the rest of the world over their proclaimed ‘successful orbit’ that everyone else has firmly believed to have splashed down in the Pacific Ocean.

Let’s entertain the notion that neither launch — 1998 or 2009 — carried a real satellite, that it was but blatant camouflage, instilling confusion in the outside world and its own. The missile tests went ahead, successfully, and the UN comes to an agreement that it indeed was a breach of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1718 as Obama says. What next? I think we’ve seen enough in the past of rules broken with little consequence where UN resolutions are concerned (both the USSR and the USA have already done it with immunity) to know that there is little done after that.

So while our nation states quarrel over the ordeal, I find myself worrying more about the pacific plankton that may have perished in the event of a splashdown…


Alice Lin (林炳秀)

Alice is a Taiwanese-born journalism major who spent most of her childhood in Windhoek, Namibia. Having left home at a young age for boarding school, she has since then lived in Singapore, New Zealand and France. She worked briefly as a translator for a Paris-based NGO and recently returned from a work placement in Morocco, where she freelanced for local papers El Watan and Morocco Today. She is now studying in France.


Alice worked as the English editor of eRenlai from December 2008 to June 2009.

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