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Sunday, April 5, 2009

North Korea Launches Missile

The United States Northern Command acknowledged that North Korea had launched a Taepo Dong 2 missile at 10:30 p.m. EDT Saturday, April 4. Northcom's tracking indicated the missile passed over the Sea of Japan and Japan, and additional tracking showed the first state of the missile fell into the Sea of Japan and "the remaining stages along with the payload itself landed in the Pacific Ocean." North Korea, meanwhile, said the missile containing "necessary measuring and communications facilities" had been broadcasting songs praising North Korean leader Kim Jong Il. " after it had been successfully launched into orbit. An Obama administration official has said any launch would see the United States seek to "firmly" respond at the United Nations, adding "there is no daylight" between Seoul and Washington on the issue. The U.S. director of national intelligence, Dennis C. Blair, has told a Senate committee that a three-stage missile of this type, if it works, could strike the continental United States, a real threat as in intercontinental ballistic missile. And, David Albright, a physicist and nuclear weapons expert who runs the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security, has written that North Korea is “likely able to build a crude nuclear warhead” for its midrange missiles that target Japan. As a means of extortion, North Korea tries to get attention from countries much bigger than itself. This launch may be seen as a warning and an offer to force Washington into negotiations beneficial to North Korea at little cost to the North Korean state. North Korea wants the attempted satellite launch to create a new set of crises for Washington. The launch will stir debate over North Korean policy on the domestic front and tear at relations between Washington and its regional allies. Years ago, when President Clinton did not conduct a summit meeting in North Korea that could have provided some $1 billion in food aid to North Korea and moved the two countries toward normalized relations, relations worsened. North Korea would not agree to enter the missile control regime unless Clinton came to the meeting. Then, President George W. Bush named North Korea as part of an "axis of evil" following the the September 11, 2001 attacks. The American stance was that North Korea had violated prior bilateral agreements, thus such forums lacked accountability. This led to a diplomatic stalemate. And, of course, North Korea admitted having a uranium enrichment program. Then, on October 9, 2006, the North Korean government issued an announcement that it had successfully conducted a nuclear test for the first time. Japan's Ministry of Defense's analyst Takesada points out that North Korea has desires of unification similar to North Vietnam's, and warns of the possibility of North Korea's compulsory merge of South Korea by threats of nuclear weapons while taking advantage of the decrease in U.S. military presence in South Korea. Millions have starved in North Korea and millions more would have if not for international food aid, half of which reportedly comes from the United States. North Korea certainly seems to need the world far more than the world need North Korea. North Korean defectors number in the tens or perhaps hundreds of thousands -- the full scope of the exodus is not clear. They sneak across the river to China to live as refugees, or flee through deserts or jungles to Mongolia, Burma or Thailand. Going to South Korea is considered treason by North Korea, and families--even distant relatives--of those who go are blacklisted, stripped of their jobs, imprisoned or killed. Often starved to death, they don't even get food rations. According to the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, more than one million North Koreans may have perished from famine and related disease since 1995. In a recent report from the committee, here are some horrible observations. "North Korea is a totalitarian state, arguably the most closed and oppressive system in the world. The denial of fundamental human rights in North Korea is not limited to particular individuals or groups but affects the entire population. The government detains and imprisons people at will, taking them from their homes and sending them directly to prison. Judicial review does not exist and the criminal justice system operates at the behest of the government. The population is subjected to a barrage of propaganda by government-controlled media, whose only purpose is to glorify the leadership." (, Committee for Human Rights in North Korea)
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