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[Editorial] N. Korea’s Missile Launch Must Be Prevented

[Editorial] N. Korea’s Missile Launch Must Be Prevented

Posted March. 27, 2009 08:47,   


Despite claiming it is a satellite, North Korea has mounted its Taepodong-2 missile on a launch pad on its northeast coast. The North said the test launch will come between April 4 and 8. Despite heavy global opposition led by South Korea, the United States, Japan and the United Nations, the North apparently will proceed with the controversial rocket. If it injects fuel into it, it can be launched. The North could even fire it a few days ahead of schedule.

Seoul, Washington and Tokyo are now in emergency mode and are preparing cooperation with one another. Off the Korean Peninsula’s east coast are two U.S. and Japanese Aegis ships each equipped with SM-3 missiles. South Korea has sent the destroyer King Sejong the Great as well. Aegis ships can track and shoot down a flying object. They will track the trajectory of the North’s projectile with the North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD, and decide whether to shoot it down. Japan will also issue an “order to destroy a ballistic missile” if the Taepodong-2 falls on its land or waters. For this, Tokyo has deployed the ground-based Patriot Advanced Capability-3 interceptors.

If Pyongyang launches the Taepodong-2, it might be crossing a bridge of no return. It has begun a countdown where its destiny is at stake. If the North launches the missile, it must bear the responsibility that comes with it.

Pyongyang seemingly wants direct negotiations with the Obama administration by threatening to halt the six-party talks and launching this rocket. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has warned that she will not tolerate the North’s nuclear development and ballistic missile activities when she visited Seoul last month. “Korea and the U.S. are on the same page when it comes to North Korea,” she said. “North Korea cannot have a different relationship with the United States while criticizing and refusing talks with South Korea.” She even showed her determination to begin discussion on the post-Kim Jong Il era.

Japan is also determined not to sit back and watch the North’s nuclear and missile development. The North’s missile development will encourage Japan to go nuclear. This is something raising fears in China, North Korea’s guardian, and in South Korea. A nuclear arms race could start in Northeast Asia if the North develops weapons of mass destruction. Nuclear and missile development goes hand in hand. A missile is needed to carry nuclear warheads long distances.

North Korea claims the rocket it plans to launch is a satellite called the Kwangmyongsong-2, asserting its “right to the peaceful use of space” and “sovereignty.” Be it a satellite or missile, this violates U.N. Security Council Resolution 1718 that bans “all activities related to North Korea’s ballistic missile program.” If Pyongyang sincerely hopes to use it for peace, it must feed its hungry people with the cost of the launch. The North has spread weapons of mass destruction before by selling ballistic missile parts to Iran.

South Korea, the United States, Japan and the international community must show that severe consequences will always follow the North’s provocations. President Lee Myung-bak and U.S. President Barack Obama will hold a summit on the sidelines of the G20 financial summit meeting in London April 2. The two leaders must declare tough measures in unison. Hopefully, China and Russia, both of which are members of the U.N. Security Council and the six-party talks, can join the efforts. If the North cancels its planned launch of the Taepodong-2 and holds talks, it will survive.