The whole world had its eyes on North Korea yesterday, when the nation proceeded on its third attempt to launch an object into space, this time a weather satellite, despite intense political pressure against such action due to concern of it actually being a covert long-range missile test and numerous U.N. treaty violations. Like North Korea’s past attempts, the Unha-3 carrier failed miserably, splintering into pieces over the Yellow Sea soon after takeoff.
Just minutes after the rocket crashed, the US and South Korea declared the launch failed, a statement surprisingly followed by the North Korean government as well, albeit some hours later. The whole event was publicized far and wide for weeks, and heralded as a major technological achievement to mark the upcoming 100th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Sung, the country’s founder and current leader’s grandfather. Foreign journalists were even invited to photograph and witness the launch site, though the invitation wasn’t prelonged for the launch event itself, probably due to rising pressure from other nations to diffuse military speculations. The media pressure, on the other hand, is what probably prompted the North Korean government to publicize the failure to its people as well, a fact rarely admitted, certain to tarnish confidence in Kim Jong-un, who rose to power after his father’s passing in December.
The failure “blows a big hole in the birthday party,” said Victor Cha, former director for Asia policy in the U.S. National Security Council. “It’s terribly embarrassing for the North.”
North Korea is one of the most isolated and oppressive countries in the world, governed by a class of politicians who believe military ambitions and playing astronaut is what’s best for their people, currently literary starving by the millions. After the failed launch, the country is set to be met with even stricter embargoes, U.N. sanctions and humanitarian aid cuts, the first one being U.S.’s food aid. Sadly, the North Korean people wasn’t the one that brought any of this upon itself, however they’ll be the ones most suffering as a consequence.
In the wake of this failed attempt, other governments will keep the rogue state (even North Korea’s long time allay, China, urged the Pyongyang government to cancel the launch) under close supervision, as all intelligence hint towards an imminent nuclear test in the near future.
“We have to watch very carefully what they are doing now at the nuclear test site and how they explain this with all those foreign journalists in the country,” Mr. Cha said.
Well, at least the Unha-3 didn’t get to blow up in orbit, otherwise we’d have a new peak in space junk material. What really cracked me up, though, was that North Korea issued a public announcement in which it warned of “merciless punishment” directed towards any government (read South Korea and Japan, which had anti-missile units positioned to fire if the North Korean rocket would have crossed in their space) who would dare to disrupt the launch into orbit or collect any debris from the rocket. Now that the launch failed all by itself, where will this merciless punishment turned to? Its people.