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Bang, Zoom: Is North Korea going to the Moon?

Recent threats from the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea (DPRK) that it will be launching a satellite using ballistic missile technology has shifted the dynamics of global politics from a peaceful transition of power after the death of “the Great Leader” Kim Jong-il last December. With his son Kim Jong-un declared “the Great Successor” and staged performances of North Koreans portraying mass rallies weeping in despair over their “Great” loss, one comes to wonder what North Korea will do next.

The U.S. and its allies view the recent military announcement as a provocation, because of a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution banning North Korea from testing missiles, becoming the first real setback in what has been “progress”. Earlier this month, North Korean and U.S. officials have been in talks over desperately needed food aid in the impoverished nation, with Pyongyang ultimately allowing International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors in to observe their disputed nuclear program.

As North Korea prepares to launch a satellite in to space, the question of what their intentions are arises, and, in addition, whether the international community, including the DPRK’s close-ally China, can pressure Pyongyang into backing down. It appears that this launch, despite the possibility of not actually carrying a satellite into space, is an attempt by the new leader in reaffirming his military “credentials” to North Korean generals, who play central roles in the DPRK’s leadership apparatus. Another possibility could be a continuation of Pyongyang’s past tactics in trying to deploy long-range missiles, in which diplomatic talks simply serve as a time to “replenish” the capabilities in hopes of launching a longer-ranged missile next time around.  The ultimate fear—the continued launches of long-range “satellites” by North Korea—will eventually help in potentially deploying far-reaching nuclear payloads in the future, possibly targeting key population centers throughout the world.

On a lighter note, could it be possible that they simply want to launch a satellite? Maybe the DPRK wants to take satellite imagery of the moon for possible future exploration? Anyone who follows North Korean politics knows that Kim Jong-il was the “Great” founder of the hamburger, that he could control weather and was born a natural golfer. Or could it possibly be that his son and successor wants to reposition his deceased father’s waterslide in one of his 17 mansions? One can only wonder.

Confessions of a dictator aside, the launch of this satellite using long-range ballistic technology serves as a real security risk, not only for Western-friendly neighbours, such as Japan and South Korea, but also the West itself. In another respect, the implications of this launch can hurt western relations with China, who expressed “worry” over the possibility of North Korea deploying “satellites” into space. The likely consequences of a launch will be minimal, but if North Korea had good intentions on this issue and actually desired to have a satellite orbiting earth, they could always hitch a ride with the Russian or Chinese.

–  Cody Levine

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