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Last Friday, North Korea announced that it will launch a long range rocket attached to a satellite between April 12 and 16 to celebrate the 100th birthday of the regime’s founding leader, Kim Il-Sung.
Pyongyang’s announcement sparked widespread criticism from the world. The US, Japan, and Britain among others have advised the regime to cancel the launch. According to AFP, this plan was announced 16 days after North Korea agreed to suspend long-range missile tests in exchange for food aid from the US.
Hillary Clinton referred to the rocket launch as “highly provocative” saying that: “Such a missile launch would pose a threat to regional security and would also be inconsistent with North Korea’s recent undertaking to refrain from long-range missile launches.” South Korea also criticized the announcement as a “grave provocation.”
AFP also reported that a Unha-3 rocket will be launching the Kwangmyongsong-3, a home-built polar-orbiting earth observation satellite towards the south from a new location at Tongchang-ri on the northwestern side of the country. Foreign observers and journalists have been invited to attend the launch. “The peaceful development and use of space is a universally recognized legitimate right of a sovereign state” the North’s state KCNA news agency said.
Some experts say that this missile test is projected to enhance the standing of the North’s new young leader, while others say it is to threaten “regional security to leverage concessions, from the United States in particular.”
“The launch will take place. Nobody is really going to do anything, because there’s nothing you can do. It’s not like China is going support more sanctions at the U.N. It really puts the US in an awkward position; whichever way it breaks out for the North, they can spin this as a win for Kim Jong-un and the regime.” — Daniel Pinkston, an expert on North Korea with the International Crisis Group in Seoul
In April 2009, North Korea led a similar missile launch, which was viewed by the west as “a violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions prohibiting North Korea from engaging in nuclear and ballistic missile activity,” and consequently resulted in more U.N. censorship. According to Al Jazeera, that launch failed, as its first stage fell into the Japanese sea without a satellite orbiting. A similar example is the 1998 launch.
“The launch reflects the North’s desire to take the upper hand in negotiations with Washington and extract more concessions” Kim Yong-Hyun, a professor at Seoul’s Dongguk University said.