Monday, April 6, 2009

North Korea's rocket launch redux

By scientific measurements the Democratic Republic of Korea's [DPRK aka North Korea]launch of a satelliteg on its long range Taepodong 2 rocket is a bust. [The DPRK demurs, unsurprisingly.]As one long time Korea watcher, who is hardly a fan of North Korea, described it as an impressive achievement, albeit fraught with military dangers. As for transgressing international agreement, it didn't. The US' calling for a resolution of condemnation and sanctions against Pyongyang, won't fly at the UN Security Council. China or Russia or the two will surely veto it. Military analysts in the US, South Korea, and Japan now take comfort in being assured by experts that the rocket launch was a failure, and by inplication a set back for the DPRK. Was it?
North Korea is no Johnny come lately to rocketry. It has been in the rocket business for a quarter century at least. It has a long list of clients in the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia, for example. Pakistan exchanged North Korea's rockets for nuclear technology, and Islamabad is a strong American ally! So failure or not, Pyongyang is making impressive steps in sophisticated rocketry capable of leaping over long geographical distances. North Korea will find buyers for its rocket science banging at its door! Hard cash is difficult to come by in a failing country, so hardly anyone is going to be turned away. And this point should never be far from the minds of military Pyongyangolists, who may at this very writing be rejoicing over the Taepodong 2 failing in its mission. Interpreted another way, it didn't; it, in fact, went further that any of its sister missiles ever went!
President Obama spoke stern words in Prague when he got news of the launch. What else could he do, short of war, to stay Pyongyang's plans? Strong words may be called for, but colouring the feat as a dire feat with immediate military implications, gave the rocket launching more weight than it perhaps deserved.
Some in the sterile ambiance of America's growing long in the tooth chattering classes took umbrage in the haughty manner of a dowager ant who condemned Pyongyang of deliberately spoiling the moment of Mr. Obama's triumphal week in Europe. Now, that a big wad of baloney, to chew! And, it is the height of self deception, of a greying group of pundits who takes their wishes forc reality. Don't they read newspapers? Pyongyang had announced it launch well in advance, though with a frame of 5 possible days in early April. You have to wonder if these highly paid television, print, or radio 'personalities' are circling some distant planet on the edge of the universe.
The DPRK has been long signaling for renewed conversations with Washington. [Seoul and Tokyo are mired in the hardening mud of misguided policies]. The US is still of two minds in approaching Pyongyang, in spite of getting fingers burnt on fires of its own making. [Mr Bush scraped the Clinton tack and his security adviser and later secretary of state Condoleezza Rice whimsically threw in the DPRK's name in the axis of evil hopper, so as to lighten the war on terror list of Islamic nations.] As a result, Mr Bush is responsible for the DPRK's entrance into the nuclear club of countries!
After that act of flummery, Mr Bush ran to save himself from the jaws of complete incompetency. Suddenly, there was movement towards Pyongyang, and then the step forward was followed by two steps backward.
The Taepodong 2 affair, will somewhat hasten matters. The six party talks will resume in Beijing, with Washington strongly twisting the arm of a reluctant Seoul and recalsitrant Tokyo. You would think after falling over the same diplomatic log, the US would see the way clear of belling the DPRK cat. They don't more out of fear then a bold coup a la Nixon's visit to China. Well, the DPRK is not big China, but it can cause, and certainly did provoke much wailing and gnashing of US teeth during the last 8 years of a Bush White House.
So, for the moment, the world economic crisis holds centre stage, but the DPRK is hardly a side bar. Washington should be seriously thinking, in the light of near and not so near events on the divided Korean peninsula, in reconvening the long dormant Geneva conference, to resolve once and for all outstanding issues, including finally ending the Korean War by a peace treaty; resolving the nuclear issue; and dealing on a realistic state to state relationship with the DPRK. In brief, lance the long standing abscess, and get back to basics in solving the economic recession and looking to improve the lot of nations so that terrorism or extremism is a tempting outlet for pent up emotions and frustrations.
Too long has the ostrich approach held towards North Korea. After the death of Kim Il sung, in spite of an opening to the US, and even president Clinton among other world figures, thought the DPRK would collapse it didn't. It is around, and no matter how much wishful thinking and prayers to idols, it is not going away!
As the Bob Dylan song goes, the answer is blowing in the wind. Unclog heavily waxed ears, and listen.

hite House

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