‘Missile Game’, Is It Going To Be A Catastrophe?

[imText1]Tension in the neighboring countries of North Korea surrounding the launch of the Daepodong 2 missile is increasing. Tensions have intensified further with the news that the missile has been readied with fuel.

What is the reason for such an extreme attempt to launch the missile? Some say it would be suicide for the North Korean regime, but it seems like Kim Jong Il has something else in mind.

◆ Why Expose the Indications of Missile Launch?

North Korea has succeeded in drawing the attention of the world by threatening a missile launch. As the US has been putting diplomatic efforts toward the neighboring countries in order to intercept the missile launch, it seems that North Korea has succeeded in getting the attention of the US, whether they actually launch the missile or not.

The biggest reason for the launch of the missile is the economic sanctions of the US. North Korea demanded the US remove the economic sanctions first, but the US is adhering to the principle that North Korea needs to come back to the six-party talks.

It seems as though North Korea feels the need to dispell the crisis resulting from the economic sanctions and inconvenience due to the lack of money. They are drawing the final ‘missile’ card in order to have bilateral negotiations with the US. North Korea’s strongest threat would be to launch a long-range ballistic missile toward the US.

The launch of the missile would imply the completion of a North Korean nuclear system against the US. The missile has more political than military implications. The moment North Korea launched a Daepodong missile toward the US with a nuclear warhead, the existence of the Kim Jong Il regime would be at risk; thus, the purpose of the threat is for political negotiation. The missile intensifies the nuclear threat of North Korea. yet they hope that bigger compensation awaits them.

The reinforcement of domestic unity is another effect of the missile threat. With the greater sense of crisis existing surrounding the leadership in North Korea with the intensifying economic sanctions, Kim Jong Il needs a method to distance himself from the negative image created. Through the missile threat, he is demonstrating to the North Korean people that North Korea can compete with the US, and is using the missile as an instrument to prevent laxity within North Korean society.

◆ Launch of Missile, Disadvantageous to North Korea?

Kim Jong Il will cover the costs and benefits of his decision. Therefore, his calculations will be done differently from that of other countries. Some attention needs to be paid to the fact that Kim Jong Il’s way of thinking has worked in the international community to a certain degree. Other countries think that North Korea’s launch of the missile will lead to isolation and pressure from the international community, but it doesn’t seem as though Kim Jong Il agrees.

First of all, Kim Jong Il seems to believe that shocking strategies are fine as long as they result in the worst situation- military attack by the US. He controls the intensity according to the situation. Kim Jong Il thinks that he can stand up against the response from the international community regarding the missile launch. It is also true that the means for the US to respond to North Korea with military power is limited.

It is the same for the 2.10 Nuclear Possession Declaration. Because there had been speculation that North Korea very likely already possessed nuclear weapon, their declaration wasn’t recognized as ‘fatal provocation’. Even if the missile was launched, the strong measure that the US can take is suggesting a resolution at the UN Security Council, intercepting with missiles and attacking the area from which the missile was launched.

The possibility of sanctions from the UN Security Council is dim due to opposition from China. It is unwise to expect any real effect from a symbolic resolution such as a declaration from the Chairman. It would not be ideal to have economic sanctions imposed by the UN, but even if the sanctions were to be activated, it would be hard to expect any effects if China continues to support North Korea economically.

The missile launch is a Kim Jong Il-style, risky gamble, in an attempt to pull the US out on the floor for bilateral negotiations as the economic sanctions intensify. It as though he is benefiting even though the missile has yet to be launched. US Democratic Senator Hilary Clinton has asked for the dispatch of a special envoy to North Korea.

◆ Who Will Be The Winner?

Experts say the possibility of an actual missile launch can’t be calculated, but the response of the US if the missile were launched is really the issue at hand.

Dr. Kim Tae Woo at KIDA stated that, “The relationship between North Korea and the US will be exacerbated and the pressure on North Korea will accelerate. North Korea has too much to lose, and there is little possibility of an actual launch of the missile.” He expects to see the US attack or sanction if the missile is launched.

Professor Nam Sung Wook at Korea University says, “A military response by the US won’t come easily. The relationship between the US and North Korea will be exacerbated and the economic sanctions may intensify.” He added that the strategy is to bring about conversation, and therefore a military response from the US is not likely.

The missile game is an attempt to pull the US out onto the floor and have them yield to North Korean demands. If this doesn’t happen, North Korea loses. However, if the US does not respond with military power, there is no loss for North Korea either.

If the US decides that the missile launch is a fatal threat and responds militarily, North Korea faces a very difficult situation. When the economic sanctions intensify up to the point where it’s close to a blockade and the military response and pressure heightens, the future of North Korea becomes unclear. If such situation were to occur, the missile launch would be remembered as Kim Jong Il’s grave error in judgment.