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Progress boosts the profile of North Korea's new dictator, but draws international criticism

North Korea, a nation titled by former President George W. Bush as part of "The Axis of Evil", shook the international political sphere Wednesday when it appeared to successfully launch an intercontinental ballistic missile.

I. Kim Jung-un is Boosted by Surprise Success

The Asian nation recently saw power pass from the late dictator Kim Jong-il to his son, Kim Jung-un, 28 (or 29, according to some sources).  The last two decades have taken their toll on Kim Jung-un's isolated kingdom, with a famine in the 90s wiping out an estimated 10 percent of the population, and amidst ongoing struggles with poverty.  A third of North Koreans are estimated to be malnourished, at present.

In short, the nation's young leader has grown desperate for successes to continue his campaign to put a positive spin on the country's direction and quell unrest.

And he got one on Wednesday.  

After a delay due to unspecified launch issues, South Korean and Japanese officials detected a rocket launch just before 10 a.m., which flew out over the Pacific.  Later this morning came word from The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) who said that the missile "deployed an object that appeared to achieve orbit."

NK rocket laucn
The launch was North Korea's first successful trip into orbit. [Image Source: Reuters]

North Korean state television station KCNA took to the air in a festive announcement, with its announcer garbed in colorful traditional garb and with propogandist tunes piping in the background.  The announcer said, according to Reuters, "The satellite has entered the planned orbit.  Chosun (Korea) does what it says."

"At a time when great yearnings and reverence for Kim Jong-il pervade the whole country, its scientists and technicians brilliantly carried out his behests to launch a scientific and technological satellite in 2012, the year marking the 100th birth anniversary of President Kim Il Sun."

The confirmation from NORAD (a joint defense effort of the U.S. and Canada) is the first time the U.S. has confirm North Korea's bold claims of successful test launches.  North Korea has seen a string of prior launches end in fiery failures.  For example, during an April launch while North Korea boasted of great success, NORAD and Asian ally states believe that missile crashed only 2 minutes after launch.

II. White House Condemns Launch

The launch brought condemnation from the U.S. and many of its allies.  U.S. officials called it "highly provocative" and suggested the launch inched the hostile nation closer to intercontinental ballistic missile capabilities, which could allow the nation to strike targets in the mainland U.S.  

The White House in its statement comments, "The international community must work in a concerted fashion to send North Korea a clear message that its violations of United Nations Security Council resolutions have consequences."

Japan has already filed a complaint with the U.N. requesting a special U.N. Security Council meeting.  However, the possibility of furth sanctions against North Korea is unlikely, as China -- a key ally of North Korea -- is expected to block any such move.

North Korea defended the launch, saying it merely launched a weather satellite into orbit, and calling the effort a "peaceful project".  KCNA comments, "The attempt to see our satellite launch as a long-range missile launch for military purposes comes from hostile perception that tries to designate us a cause for security tension."

III. Missile Defense Systems Could Block North Korean Nukes

Currently, North Korea is estimated to have enough plutonium to potentially build half a dozen nuclear bombs.  However, technologically it is estimated to be at least several years away from being able to create a functional warhead, which it has expressed a desire to do.

But the nation has received a boost from Middle Eastern ally Iran -- another member of the "Axis of Evil" and persistent thorn in America's side.  U.S. intelligence tracked missile shipments travelling from Iran to North Korea over the last year; it is believed that much of the missile was constructed in the increasingly high-tech Middle Eastern nation.

Iran has denied helping North Korea, but according to intelligence officials Iranian observers were spotted on the ground in the Asian nation, taking notes on the launch.

The Middle Eastern nation has been regularly in the news, after it was also accused of funneling rockets to Islamist militants in the recent conflict between Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and Israel.  In that conflict the Israel Defense Forces are estimated to have shot down between 80 and 90 percent of dangerous hostile rockets using their high-tech "Iron Dome" missile interceptor system.

Japan and South Korea have similar missile interceptors systems -- Patriot-missile based systems co-developed with the U.S. and partially deployed -- to ward off potential threats from China or, particularly, North Korea.  However, they declined to fire test those systems on the North Korean missile, after China issued a warning advising against counter-measures.

Patriot interceptor
A member of the Japanese Self-Defense Forces is seen running to PATRIOT Interceptor Missile battery on Wednesday.  Japan and U.S. declined to intercept the North Korean rocket after being warned by China. [Image Source: Reuters]

Nonetheless, in months to come expect the U.S. and its allies to focus on establishing a strong countermeasures perimeter capable of shooting down North Korean nuclear warheads, should it try to launch them in future conflcts.

Sources: Reuters, The White House

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By DiscoWade on 12/12/2012 12:52:08 PM , Rating: 5
They have people starving and so malnourished that the average height of North Koreans is shorter than South Koreans. Instead of using what little money you have to feed your people, you spend it on launching a missile. Good to see you have your priorities straight.

RE: Priorities
By Ristogod on 12/12/2012 12:56:41 PM , Rating: 1
Also, not buying BS about Iran.

RE: Priorities
By ClownPuncher on 12/12/2012 1:05:59 PM , Rating: 2
Nor am I.

RE: Priorities
By Pirks on 12/12/12, Rating: -1
RE: Priorities
By Jereb on 12/12/2012 3:30:23 PM , Rating: 5
And don't forget that the Americans were selling arms to the Germans prior to entering the WWII.

RE: Priorities
By Pirks on 12/12/12, Rating: -1
RE: Priorities
By Jereb on 12/12/2012 4:44:42 PM , Rating: 3

America sold weapons, components, fuel and expertise to both sides of the war right up to 1941.

Might not find any "american made" tanks and rifles in germany, but you might find some components stamped "Good 'Ol USA".

RE: Priorities
By Amedean on 12/12/2012 9:05:47 PM , Rating: 1
*sigh* America sold weapons, components, fuel and expertise to both sides of the war right up to 1941. Might not find any "american made" tanks and rifles in germany, but you might find some components stamped "Good 'Ol USA".

America.....or a merchant? I understand people like to stretch or misrepresent history, create entertaining ironies and there is always a crowd of susceptible "intellects" to consume these campfire tall tales.

Nice of you by the way avoiding credible references. If you are going patronize history at least look like you know what you are talking about!

RE: Priorities
By Jereb on 12/13/2012 12:41:41 AM , Rating: 2
Well i'm digging my info out of "Wall Street and the Rise of Hitler". 'Not a great website but it does list it's sources and no I haven't read all of the sources'

But you're right you could more accurately say it was several powerful merchants/families and not the US government.

But going back to why I even commented, can we determine the same about Iran and North Korea?

RE: Priorities
By Wulf145 on 12/14/2012 7:43:18 AM , Rating: 2
As far as I am aware the only US made weapons the German Armed Forces used were weapons which were captured in large quantities from European countries which they defeated.

Could you site an example of a US Weapon which the German Armed Forces used which was not captured?

I could not find any in my Books on Equipment used by the Germans which were not captured.


RE: Priorities
By ClownPuncher on 12/12/2012 3:40:05 PM , Rating: 2
Because this situation has zero to do with WWII, of which I've studied in depth. I appreciate your zeal for history, but it has nothing to do with the topic at hand.

RE: Priorities
By JasonMick on 12/12/2012 1:24:55 PM , Rating: 4
Also, not buying BS about Iran.
You suggesting U.S. intelligence is making it up?

Of course it makes sense that Iran is supplying North Korea with missiles. It's essentially using NK as a guinea pig/fall guy to test its weapons. By pinning the test on NK, it skirts getting more sanctions itself, as it knows China will back NK before the U.N.

Iran has long used other poorer nations to fight its battles... just look at the recent conflict in the Gaza Strip, as case and point.

And that's not hating on Iran, it's just noting the reality that's been observed by the vast majority of international observers over the past couple decades. Not that the U.S. would ever do anything like playing poorer nations off each other for its own economic or military ends. ;)

RE: Priorities
By ClownPuncher on 12/12/2012 3:43:59 PM , Rating: 5
The same US intelligence that denied flying UAV over Iran, and denied the capture of one such craft? The same US intelligence that sold chemical and conventional weapons to a belligerent nation in the 1980's?

No, I'd say it's impossible to think they might be making something up.

RE: Priorities
By JasonMick on 12/12/2012 4:50:04 PM , Rating: 1
No, I'd say it's impossible to think they might be making something up.
Sure they might.

But you have to consider just because a nation lies when it's interest to lie doesn't mean it would also lie when it's interest to tell the truth.

In this case the facts seem to indicate that it would be favorable for Iran to do what U.S. officials are alleging it did, so that makes it more believable, to an extent, regardless of your level of trust in the source.

From my perspective the U.S. military will often say what is most advantageous to itself from a national security perspective (or its own myopic view of what makes it secure at times).

I am not basing my statement on the U.S. military's, which is virtually impossible to prove, and certainly could be fairly be called suspect.

Rather I'm basing it on the fact that Iran has very active missile development programs and has a well documented history of testing missile tech in other poorer nations.

If anything I'm complementing Iran -- if they indeed did that. It is an unethical strategy, but a clever/rewarding one.

As with the recent Gaza Strip conflict, if the Iranians were truly involved, they would pocket much of the gains (engineering experience, payments from North Korea, good will for not doing the test in their own backyard), while their poor ally would be left out to dry.

In that regard if I am correct, Iran, for all its rhetoric, can be much like the U.S. at its worst -- exploitative for its own nationalist gains.

RE: Priorities
By ClownPuncher on 12/12/2012 5:36:43 PM , Rating: 3
Favorable or no, Iran isn't the first country that pops into mind when I think, "Who could be helping the North Koreans?".

RE: Priorities
By JasonMick on 12/12/2012 6:06:54 PM , Rating: 3
Favorable or no, Iran isn't the first country that pops into mind when I think, "Who could be helping the North Koreans?".
Ah you're suggesting it was China?

True, they certainly could have played a role. But they arguably have less to gain and more to lose by arming NK with ballistic missiles and encouraging them along a path of nuclear development.

Remember NK is a long way from Iran, but right next door to China. If NK did something stunningly stupid at a future date, it would not devastate Iran, but it could have serious affects on China.

Also there's much more American presence in China, so smuggling parts from China to NK would be much tougher to do unobserved that smuggling parts from Iran to NK.

Again this is highly speculative, I would just say that direct Chinese involvement/supply of missile parts/engineering expertise seems less likely given the situation Although I should note that China, Iran, and North Korea are all close allies -- Iran sells most of its oil to China and enjoys a close friendship with China -- so some Chinese involvement is almost certain.

RE: Priorities
By ClownPuncher on 12/12/2012 7:14:58 PM , Rating: 3
Russia. Iran may have a hand in the pot, but I'm suggesting that Iran could not do this themselves without an OK from Russia at some level.

RE: Priorities
By ritualm on 12/12/2012 6:33:54 PM , Rating: 3
There is one persistent theme throughout the Cold War: you never directly fight your enemy, instead you use proxies of convenience. Heck, USA once used OBL and its factions as a proxy against Soviet-controlled Afghanistan. In this sense Iran is merely following the status quo.

As for "why Iran and not China?" You should realize that even Beijing is suspicious of what's really going on at Pyongyang. China might be one of the very few allies North Korea has, but the Chinese are not dumb. Meanwhile, Iran pretty much does not care if NK ends up destabilizing the Asia-Pacific region with its Iranian-enhanced weapons programs.

RE: Priorities
By Bad-Karma on 12/13/2012 1:41:27 AM , Rating: 2
Mick , Here is some ammo for you, the Iranians and North Koreans have arms trading history going quite a ways back

They were trading during the Iran-Iraq war. But had relations even before that.

RE: Priorities
By ClownPuncher on 12/13/2012 11:58:12 AM , Rating: 2
... you must have also read that N Korea was acting as a proxy for China and Russia, right?

RE: Priorities
By Bad-Karma on 12/13/2012 1:02:11 PM , Rating: 2
They've been on good terms with mutual interests for quite sometime. They continue to do a lot of technology sharing and weapon systems upgrades.

RE: Priorities
By ClownPuncher on 12/13/2012 1:24:31 PM , Rating: 2
Enjoy your puppet show.

RE: Priorities
By dark matter on 12/17/2012 3:35:33 AM , Rating: 1
What you're saying is sometimes a liar is telling the truth.

Fab, that's a great argument.

RE: Priorities
By tamalero on 12/14/2012 10:32:57 AM , Rating: 3
Please.. Iraq was a fine example of botched (or on purpose) "intelligence", with the only purpose was to build up a war.

every single warproducing company is salivating on the idea of a war with Iran.

RE: Priorities
By dark matter on 12/17/2012 3:34:37 AM , Rating: 1
You suggesting U.S. intelligence is making it up?

Why not, it's not like they don't have precedent on this.

WMD, Iraq, spring immediately to mind. Or perhaps this "intelligence" came from Torture Victims.

Or are you suggesting the US intelligence services don't make stuff up to suit an agenda....

RE: Priorities
By MozeeToby on 12/12/2012 1:22:18 PM , Rating: 2
Instead of using what little money you have to feed your people, you spend it on launching a missile.
Worse than that, if all they did was not build the missile and hide the money in a mattress they'd get hundreds of millions in aid from all over the world. How many times has the world tried to offer them food and fertilizers in exchange for slowing down their arms development?

RE: Priorities
By MrRuckus on 12/12/2012 2:18:23 PM , Rating: 2
Its a sad ordeal indeed as their people have no recourse to resist.

I just hope the whole Red Dawn plot doesn't come to pass. Our interception sets off a nuke in the atmosphere and we see an EMP take out our west cost.

while it wouldn't take us out, the fallout of blackout, no power, ect is what I would be worried about.

RE: Priorities
By 91TTZ on 12/12/2012 2:26:20 PM , Rating: 2
Why do you think that an interception would set off a nuke?

RE: Priorities
By Motoman on 12/12/2012 3:56:20 PM , Rating: 1
...because he's not very smart.

RE: Priorities
By MrRuckus on 12/12/2012 6:43:05 PM , Rating: 2
Would it really be all that difficult to make a nuke that detonates if it detects an impact from another device on an intercepting course? Doesn't seem impossible.. i guess it depends on our response time and how close they could get.

RE: Priorities
By 91TTZ on 12/13/2012 12:58:12 PM , Rating: 2
The problem with that idea is that you need a specially timed explosion to compress the plutonium sphere. If the explosions aren't timed properly then you don't get a nuclear detonation. If you blew up a nuclear warhead it wouldn't detonate, it would just blast chunks of plutonium around.

RE: Priorities
By Motoman on 12/14/2012 12:27:33 PM , Rating: 1
This is it exactly. Everyone who's ever seen an action movie from the last 20 years knows "how to build" a nuclear bomb.

You need a big ball of enriched fissile material, like plutonium or uranium, and a perfectly spherical shell of explosives around that that will all detonate at the exact same moment, providing 100% equal compression on the fissile ball.

Then you get big boom.

The concept is ridiculously simple...but rather tricky to actually pull off in real life. So when a nuclear ICBM gets intercepted by a Patriot missle, or whatever, the destruction is very uneven and doesn't cause a nuclear explosion.

What you get, at worst, is a "dirty bomb" - which is just blowing something up that had lots of radioactive stuff in it. Which, sure, that causes some serious problems for the target. Nothing like an actual nuclear blast though. And in all likelihood, an ICBM intercept would happen over the ocean, meaning that in the end probably nothing actually affects anybody.

RE: Priorities
By bupkus on 12/12/2012 2:40:11 PM , Rating: 2
Hunger has a useful political purpose in N. Korea. It could ensure that families showing loyalty to the regime by enlisting their young men into the military may receive special treatment in allocations of food or other needed services.
If soldiers are actually paid small amounts of money they may be pressured by their officers to forward those funds to their families who suffer from "the hostile acts of the U.S. and allies" as part of their political hate think.
Of course I realize N. Korea does not depend on enlistment but would it not be better seen for a young person to enlist for his family's welfare than to be taken from his family at a time of need?

What has been a concern of my own is a similar use of military enlistment here in the U.S.
I have read of children of the undocumented here enlisting in our military to ensure their acceptance as naturalized citizens. This would stave off the need to engage the political heat from a return to a national draft as well as employ the recently unemployed resulting from out economic downturn-- an ancillary benefit to reduce the numbers of unemployed.

RE: Priorities
By jimbojimbo on 12/13/2012 1:27:23 PM , Rating: 2
In both Koreas military service is mandatory so there's nothing like that in North Korea.

RE: Priorities
By kleinma on 12/12/2012 11:28:19 PM , Rating: 3
We have lots of starving people here too. We spend a few bucks on the military ourselves. Just sayin...

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