Analysis Politics

It's Time to Put Down the Nukes and Count to 10, Kim

WESTERN-EASTERN RELATIONS are under strain as North Korea, once again, refuses to play nice. US satellites have picked up images of a train carrying a Taepodong-2 missile-shaped object to a launch pad in Dongchangri on the east coast.

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WESTERN-EASTERN RELATIONS are under strain as North Korea, once again, refuses to play nice.
US satellites have picked up images of a train carrying a Taepodong-2 missile-shaped object to a launch pad in Dongchangri on the east coast. If they fire a missile from there, it would be in the direction of Japan and Alaska.

The base is currently under construction but said to be 80% completed. Reports from the Head of the Parliament Defense Committee, Kim Hak-Song, insist that North Korea will fire a missile within the month. They are claiming this 'experiment' is in aid of technology and communication development and completely unrelated to any nuclear proliferation. The international community remains sceptical.

If the launch is successful, the country will be able to send a nuclear warhead to targets up to 4,200 miles away. For the first time, they will have the potential to become a direct security threat to the United States although it will be unable to come into contact with the mainland. In the unlikely event that they succeed, they will have the ability to expand and test their rocket systems and produce long-range missiles that can fly even further.

Although any threat from Kim Jong-il and his posse must be taken with a grain of salt, so far, attempts by the international community to halt nuclear production in the region has been unsuccessful. North Korea are already facing massive sanctions from the US, Japan, and South Korea. The U.N. restrictions that were put into place after the 2006 ballistic missile test still apply. The US is calling for suspension of aid promised under the six-way nuclear deal. Japan and South Korea are blocking channels that allow funds and supplies in an attempt to squeeze the already destitute state. While another failed launch would be embarrassing, Jong-il clearly feels that this is a good opportunity to make waves internationally; it's not like they had much to lose in the way of respect originally.

On the other hand, the international community is used to Kim Jong-il's demands for attention. Sixteen years ago, on the eve of the Clinton administration, North Korea exploited both America and South Korea's desires to encourage communication by declaring a quasi-state of war and launching a Rodong missile to Japan. Jong-il received the attention he so badly wanted in the form of high-level talks with Washington encouraging him to come back to the fold. This time around, the British and the Americans must remain strong in refusing to converse with Kim Jong-il until North Korea shows evidence that they are following a course of denuclearisation.

While the idea of North Korea having the ability to fire a nuclear weapon is far from comforting, they are unlikely to be successful. Their last missile launch stayed in the air for about 6 seconds. It broke apart in less than a minute. Experts don't believe they have the biological or chemical capacity to produce a nuclear weapon any time soon and there has been no actual evidence that Jong-il is not just throwing his toys out of the pram in an attempt to get some attention from big-brother Obama.
We've seen this before and we shall see it again. Kim Jong-il is attempting to reinforce his supposed perception as a powerful autocrat after his reported stroke this summer. While America is and will continue to watch the situation very carefully, there appears to be no real reason to be alarmed. Robert Wood, a US State Department spokesman described North Korea's actions as "unhelpful and provocative" and he's right. It's unhelpful, but it's not dangerous or even a direct threat to us at the moment. Even with threats of a missile pointed at the US (well, Alaska), the union will stand.
Failing that, there's always David Miliband's plan to rid the world of nuclear weapons in six easy steps.

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