Behind North Korea s Missile Launch on December 12, 2012 Late last night North Korea successfully launched an Unha-3 rocket, putting a Kwangmyongsong-3Feb 2 1 of 1View Source
Behind North Korea's Missile Launch on December 12, 2012
Late last night North Korea successfully launched an Unha-3 rocket, putting a Kwangmyongsong-3 (Shining Star-3) satellite into orbit. The rocket is too small to carry a nuclear warhead.
Why does a test matter? Glyn Davies, U.S. special envoy on North Korea, stated after a meeting with Chinese officials, "We reached strong consensus that a nuclear test will be troubling and will set back efforts to de-nuclearize the Korean Peninsula. De-nuclearization is a necessary precondition to peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula." White House spokesperson Jay Carney adds, "a test would be a significant violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions. Further provocation would only increase Pyongyang's isolation, and its continued focus on its nuclear and missile program is doing nothing to help the North Korean people." [Glyn Davies via AP, 1/25/13. Jay Carney via AP, 1/24/13]
What will we learn from a North Korean test? A test, even if successful, will not tell us whether Pyongyang has battlefield-reliable weapons, or just laboratory devices; and it will not indicate that the North has made any further progress toward putting a bomb on a missile that could actually threaten the continental United States. The New York Times reports, "American intelligence officials said recently that, at best, the North's missiles could hit Hawaii, and that it would be at least three years, maybe more, before that range could be extended to the continental United States." The Associated Press adds, "Korea still has technological kinks to work out in its nuclear devices. It is thought to be unable to make a nuclear weapon small enough to be mounted on a missile, so it needs to test that technology as well."
Importantly,the test will shed light on whether the North has developed the technology for a uranium weapon, which would allow it to grow its arsenal: "The North's previous two tests used plutonium, harvested from a now-closed nuclear reactor. Uranium enrichment gives the North another pathway to expand its arsenal; American intelligence officials have said they believe the North has enough plutonium for roughly 6 to 10 weapons," according to the New York Times. [NY Times, 1/25/13. AP 1/25/13]
Patrick Cronin of the Center for a New American Security explains, "Because escalatory steps must eventually either climb back down or lead to war, there should be a continuing willingness to talk with North Korea and, should it ever shift tack and commit responsible acts, the United States and its allies should be prepared to reward those acts with more fruitful exchanges and assistance." [Patrick Cronin, 1/29/13]