Sunday, March 30, 2008

A political test-flight

DPRK tested on Friday morning three short-range KN-02 missiles. The latest test firing of these missiles with a 120km range occurred three times in May - June, 2007.

The current test is regarded to be a show of anger over the hard-line stance of the new conservative government in the southern part of the peninsula. This tougher stand is exemplified by the voting behavior of South Korea in the United Nations. Seoul voted in favor of a resolution at the U.N. Human Rights Council that condemned human rights abuses in North Korea.

Probably to the dismay of the Kim Jong Il’s regime, the reaction of the South was – at least for the public – calm: "The government regards North Korea's missile firing as merely a part of its ordinary military training," presidential spokesman Lee Dong-kwan told Yonhap News Agency. A similar calm statement was made by Japan. Its ministry said in a written statement shortly after the missile launches were reported that Japan does not believe that there is an emergency significantly affecting the country's national security.

However, experts believe that North Korea conducted the test in an attempt to worsen the South-North relations ten days ahead of the general parliamentary elections on April 9.

This test was not only aimed to impact the North-South relationship but also to impress the United States. DPRK threatened on the same day to halt the process of disabling its nuclear facilities unless the U.S. drops its "unreasonable demand" over the communist state's suspected uranium enrichment program. An unidentified spokesman for the North's Foreign Ministry said in a statement:

"Explicitly speaking, the DPRK has never enriched uranium nor rendered nuclear cooperation to any other country. It has never dreamed of such things. […] Such
things will not happen in the future, too."
The White House has a more critical perspective. On Friday Washington criticized the missile launches:
"North Korea should focus on the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and deliver a complete and correct declaration of all its nuclear weapons programs, and nuclear proliferation activities and to complete the agreed disablement."
Against the background of the troubled relationship between DPRK and its neighbors and United States one can expect that we will see more political test-launches in the future.

For a detailed analysis of DPRK’s ballistic missile program read the paper by Daniel Pinkston published by the Strategic Studies Institute.

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