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Published:April 6th, 2009 09:51 EST
North Korea's Missile Launch Tests The U.N.'s Resolve

North Korea's Missile Launch Tests The U.N.'s Resolve

By Christopher HIllenbrand

The United States government and its supporters around the globe issued harsh words toward North Korea`s rocket launch on Sunday. Originally discovered by a British reconnaissance agency, the rocket launch, touted as a mission to deliver a communications satellite into orbit, was ordained a blatant breach on the movement against nuclear weapon development in an emergency U.N. session between the US and other aligned nations. Though the rocket eventually landed in the Pacific, officials are calling the launch a "provocative act" in the country`s pursuits towards making a long-range missile operational.

Chosun Ilbo, South Korea`s widest circulated newspaper, covered the report released by U.S and South Korean intelligence officials verifying that the missile`s second stage touched water approximately 1,984 miles away from the original firing point, which almost doubled the range attained by the country`s last known rocket launch back in 1998.

Embattled in a economic war on the homefront and an ever-increasing conflict in Afghanistan, President Barack Obama now faces his first diplomatic crisis with Pyongyang and North Korea`s regime under Kim Jong Il. The president called for an international backlash toward North Korea`s transgression and denounced Pyongyang for endangering the peace and unity between countries in the global community "near and far". Moments following the missile`s firing, Japan invoked other U.N. members to join an impromptu Security Council session to discuss the matter at the U.N.`s headquarters in New York.

With the impending liftoff less than a week away, South Korean president Lee Myung-bak went on the radio last Monday to stress his concerns over the missile launch, that both his and the U.S. governments have deemed the country`s capability toward firing a long-range missile. He said: "North Korea`s reckless act of threatening regional and global security cannot have any justification," before the menace became a reality.

While overseas in Prague, Obama asserted: "North Korea broke the rules, once again, by testing a rocket that could be used for long-range missiles. It creates instability in their region, around the world. This provocation underscores the need for action, not just this afternoon in the U.N. Security Council, but in our determination to prevent the spread of these weapons."

Though Obama wasn`t present in New York, the U.S. representatives convened with international emissaries for three hours, striving to reach a mutually beneficial agreement between all parties. The conference concluded in a stalemate that didn`t even include a customary preliminary statement of condemnation by diplomats, which is typically procedure.

Coming out of the closed-door mediations, diplomats revealed that of all the countries involved in the emergency talks, China, Libya, Vietnam, and Russia expressed the most doubt over taking action against North Korea citing that such recourse might further harm and disintegrate relationships with the Communist country.

Chinese Ambassador Zhang Yesui spoke following the conferences about the tentative ramifications concerning the crisis.

"We`re now in a very sensitive moment. Our position is that all countries concerned should show restraint an refrain from taking actions that might lead to increased tensions."

Immediately after the Security Council meetings, the council`s five permanent members: the United States, Britain, France, China, and Russia, adjourned to conduct a separate convention with Japan. In the talks that came out of that assembly, the United States and three of its closest allies: France, Britain, and Japan arbitrated a proposal to resolve the situation that could be realized by the end of the week. Details in the proposal concentrate on tightening economic sanctions by "`naming and shaming` individuals and entities", according to diplomats in the consortium.

Claude Heller, Ambassador for Mexico and the council`s president, affirmed the Security Council would reconvene "as soon as possible" on Monday.

U.N. members suspect that North Korea was possibly taking advantage of a loophole in their sanctions that prevented them to engage in ballistic missile activity. To iterate their rights currently well within the sanctions enforced against them, North Korea declared it was executing its right to "peaceful space development". Though their story about the communications satellite falls under that claim, ambassadors aren`t wholly convinced.

The U.S. restated that Pyongyang clearly flouted sanctions, and with the recent information obtained from spy satellites in orbit, their case is clearly defined as the most likely scenario. But before the U.S. and the United Nations can punish them for the violation, North Korea`s two closest proponents, Russia and China, both disagreed with any resolutions to carry out peaceful reprisals against the nation.

One other theory is that Kim Jong Il, who is a self-proclaimed film enthusiast, is lifting much of the plotline from the 1959 cult film "The Mouse That Roared" for his strategm against the West. The movie is about a fictional destitute country that declares war on the United States, when it knows it`s sure it will lose, so it can receive money to reconstruct their economy much like the Marshall Plan the U.S. used to aid its impoverished enemies after World War II.

Susan Rice, the U.S.`s ambassador to the U.N. claimed: "Obviously today`s action by North Korea constitutes a clear violation. My government has called this a provocative act, and we have been in consultation today with our allies in the region and other partners on the Security Council... to work toward agreement on a strong collective action."

And North Korea has learned from their previous mistakes pertaining how to go ahead in producing potential nuclear weapons. In the past several years, the socialist nation has been guilty of going through with testing a nuclear device underground and more overt rocket testings. But since the unruly regime under Kim announced to the world that they were going to be shooting a weapons-grade missile into space, their breach is much harder to scrutinize. When more severe sanctions were instituted against Pyongyang after its underground nuclear test in 2006, few nations in the U.N. would actually stand up and protest their nuclear proliferation.

The Korean Central News Agency, the state-run media organization, said that Kim Jong Il was in attendance to watch the launch firsthand. Il asserted that he took "great satisfaction" from his nation`s scientists and engineers who "successfully launched the satellite with their own wisdom and technology."

On the other side of the demilitarized zone, South Korea`s Yonhap news syndicate recounted what Shin Son Ho, North Korea`s ambassador to the United Nations, told the country`s local affiliate MBC TV. On the satellite launch earlier in the day, Son Ho said: "We are happy. Very, very successful. You should congratulate (North Korea)."

Though North Korea has prided itself as a lone wolf in the global community for the last decade, their mantra of "juche", otherwise known as "self-reliance", is now defunct as the country has fallen into one of its worst depressions in years. From 1998 thru 2008, the country received a substantial amount of assistance from its southern counterpart through agreements with South Korea`s last president, the conservative Lee. Once a new administration was elected into office, the financial pipeline into Pyongyang was cut off, causing the nation`s already poor economy to plummet even further. And seeing that North Korea has actively incited aggression against its Korean Democratic neighbor, it hasn`t exactly garnered a favor amongst world powers in acquiring economic funds. Now that the entire world is caught in the undertow of a recession, even their allies, Russia and China, are not in a prime position to help the malnourished Communists.

But its `persona non grata` status in world politics might prove to work to the country`s advantage this time. When Pyongyang began its nuclear weapons program, they held that danger over the world`s collective head. With its fusion faculties coming to fruition, North Korea is especially ready now to trade their nuclear ambitions for the money their gravely poor economy needs. In the meantime however, they`re more than willing to continue constructing banned weapons` technologies and to auction off unused military parts and equipment to any countries, and groups for that matter, who can afford them.

Jong Il has stated that his people are in desperate need for food and energy resources. Furthermore, North Korea`s leader has agreed to sit down with officials in Washington to negotiate terms for assistance and disarmament.

Iran, another country embroiled in tense relationships, has voiced their support for North Korea`s test launch. This comes after Iran had been implicated in cooperating with North Korea in nuclear arms development, and faced similar disciplinary measures following their burgeoning nuclear program.

In line with the official statement by Pyongyang, Iran`s state television network stated: "North Korea, like any other country, as the right to enter space. Pressure on North Korea to give up its indisputable right (was clearly) unfair and honest."

U.N. Conferences on Sunday touched on negotiations between six nations on how to effectively dismantle North Korea`s nuclear program.

Experts on North Korea have repeatedly said that Pyongyang will eventually bow to the pressure the world at large is applying to them.

Kim Keun-sik, an expert on North Korea at the Kyungnam University in South Korea, said that the North`s recent insubordination will create an impasse between the U.S. and North Korea for the time being but isn`t likely to last long. He said: "Wouldn`t they eventually come to hold talks? There is no way."

Experts on the prodigal nation also expect that the two American journalists that were recently imprisoned by the North Korean authorities will be used as aces in the hole in the coming nuclear talks. One pundit in particular, Paik Hak-soon from the Sejong Institute think tank, said that the negotiations would include the detained journalists by trying to "link them to the nuclear and missile talks."