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Missile Program Is N. Korean Cash Cow

Posted June. 19, 2006 03:02,   


North Korea is pursuing a hard line by attempting to test fire its missile despite international criticism due to its North Korean-styled strategy of survival.

The regime perceives that it is self sufficient only with nuclear weapons and the missiles to launch the weapons. Missile exports are also a good source of financial revenue.

But critics point out that this move intensifies international ostracism and crisis.

Reasons for persisting on missiles-

North Korea has been arguing that the missile production, testing, and launch are purely for purposes of self-defense, and that “nobody can interfere in what we do.” Kim Jong Il mentioned several times that the missiles are “a method to preserve the dignity and future of our nation.”

The DPRK maintains that the U.S. has been pursuing an offensive preemptive threat against the regime since the Korean War in 1950 with atomic bombs and missiles. Its logic holds that the North should develop its nuclear weapons and missiles for self-defense.

North Korea also insists that missile development is a form of external revenue in order to prop up the destitute economy.

The DPRK earned more than $600 million from 1987 to 1994 by selling 260 SCUD missiles to Egypt, Iran, and Syria. According to a 2004 report by the American Congressional Research Service, from 1995 to 2000 the country has moved from finished products to components and technology, and is exporting these to the Middle East at 500 million dollars per year.

When negotiating with the US from 1996 to 1999, North Korea required 1 billion dollars per year in return for giving up long-range missile development.

North Korea also recognizes that missiles may pose a bargaining chip for security assurances from the U.S.

In June last year Kim mentioned in a conversation with Chung Dong-young, then Minister of Unification, “We are willing to forgo missile options if we form diplomatic ties and alliance with the United States.”

Gains and losses from missile launch-

Analysts say that should North Korea launch missiles, for the immediate future it may gain the upper hand in negotiations with the US.

With the six party talks moribund, North Korea maintained that it continued its nuclear weapons production with plutonium and enriched uranium, and announced that it possessed nuclear weapons. Should its Taepodong-2 (or its alternative), an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that can travel for more than 6,000km succeed, North Korea will prove its ability to attack U.S. territory with nuclear weapons.

North Korea may perceive this factor as leverage for direct negotiations with the United States.

Should it succeed in its missile launch, its client list for missiles and technology, currently limited to some Middle Eastern countries, may expand dramatically. It may also contribute to social cohesion within the country. But general opinion holds that more is to be lost than gained.

Chances are high that relations with the United States, which is sensitive to weapons of mass destruction, may collapse. Normalization of ties with the United States may become a more distant option. A high level official in the South Korean government viewed that “the U.S. will increase its level of economic sanctions against North Korea, blocking its funding sources, and the survival of the Kim Jong Il regime itself may be in question.”

North Korea also faces the possibility that the missile may be intercepted. Should interception succeed, North Korea’s missile development efforts would be nullified, and its exports will suffer.

The South Korean government, which has been favorable towards aiding the North, has less leeway for maneuvering its affairs with strong internal and external pressure to stop aid with the launch of the missiles.