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[Op-Ed] Satellites and Missiles

Posted February. 26, 2009 09:49,   


Japan has constantly advocated the peaceful use of space over the past 40 years. Even after developing a rocket for launching satellites and putting intelligence satellites into the orbit, Japan says it has no military satellite by citing the 1969 resolution of its House of Councilors declaring that Japan uses space for peaceful purposes only. Referring to this claim, Japanese aerospace analyst Fujio Nakano sarcastically said, “Japan is the only country in the world where such a ‘beautiful story’ is accepted.” He criticized Tokyo’s double face of emphasizing peace though it has the technology and means to turn satellites into weapons at any time. Japan opened an era of military space technology by enacting a basic space law last year.

North Korea provided cause for Japan to use space for military purposes without reservation. After Pyongyang launched a ballistic missile in 1998, Japan immediately countered by declaring the construction of four intelligence satellites. Pyongyang might have learned this rhetoric from Tokyo, and has just declared “peaceful use of space.” The North said it is preparing to launch the test telecommunication satellite Kwangmyongsong No. 2 using Unha No. 2, a satellite launching rocket, after declaring Feb. 7 its right to the peaceful use of space, citing Iran’s launch of a satellite.

Both long range missiles and satellites are launched using rockets. If an explosive is loaded at a rocket’s head, the rocket becomes a missile. If a satellite is loaded, it becomes a satellite launcher. Who can trust Pyongyang’s claim that it is launching an expensive satellite for peaceful use when its people are starving to death. The North even conducted a nuclear test by secretly developing nuclear weapons. Pyongyang has behaved in a way to make its neighbors suspect it is disguising its ballistic missile tests as a satellite launch.

The international community is considering the North’s move a serious act of aggression. Following the example of South Korea and the United States, France has also warned North Korea not to violate U.N. Security Council resolutions 1695 and 1718. Washington and Tokyo have put in place interceptor missile systems to counter Pyongyang’s missiles since 1998. If the North dismisses warnings and commits an act of aggression, it could suffer irreversible damage. North Korea must consider peace on earth before peace in space.

Editorial Writer Bhang Hyeong-nam (hnbhang@donga.com)