By Andrei Ilyashenko
Next week North Korea is going to be the main newsmaker. The launch of an artificial satellite of the earth “Kwanmenson-3″ (“The Shining Star-3”), dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the founder of the country Kim Il Sung is scheduled for April 12-16. If the launch is successful, North Korea in principle will become equal with other countries possessing strategic nuclear missile weapons – the US, Russia, China, Great Britain and France.
This event has an unprecedented resonance in the North Korean media. Last Sunday a group of foreign journalists visited the cosmodrome. They report that the rocket “Unha -3” (“The Milky Way-3”) is already at the launch site. Soon the fuel filling will begin, which will last 2-3 days, after that the rocket will be perfectly ready for the launch.
The rocket’s take-off weight is 91 ton, its diameter – 2.4 meters, its height – 30 meters. The public official accompanying the journalists said that after the satellite, which is considered to be a meteorological one, was put into orbit, it would broadcast to the whole world Korean songs “General Kim Il Sung” and “General Kim Jong Il”. He stressed that the satellite was exclusively peaceful and was going to be launched “in the interests of the development of economy and improvement of the living standards of the population”.
North Korea intends to invite foreign guests to the launch. However, a great number of observers are not expected. All the key international players – the US, China, Russia, Japan, South Korea, the UN, and the EU – have condemned the future launch.
As the White House Press Secretary Jay Carney stated to journalists on Monday, «the launch of the rocket or a nuclear test will be the evidence of the fact that the North Korean leadership has decided not to take necessary steps in order to end its isolation, to be reunited with the community of nations and to alleviate the suffering of its people from hunger”.
The Russian Foreign Ministry, in turn, points out that Russia “has never denied the sovereign right of the DPRK to peaceful space exploration. At the same time, the UN Security Council resolution 1874 demands that Pyongyang should cancel all the launches using ballistic missile technology, regardless of them being military missiles or civilian rockets-carriers”. Representatives of “Glavcosmos” refused to go to North Korea to monitor the launch.
The toughest position of all was taken by Seoul. “Our government considers the plan to launch the North Korea’s so-called “worker satellite” as a blatant provocation, aimed at the development of means of delivery of long-range nuclear weapons using ballistic missile technology”, – said the official representative of the South Korean President. Japan, South Korea and China declared that they would bring down the rocket if it deviated from its course. “The air-space defense troops of Russia will be ready to destroy the rocket if it deviates from the course and there is a risk of it falling on the territory of Russia,” – the Russian General Staff stated.
However, Pyongyang is not confused by these statements. Moreover, the DPRK intends to continue the development of its missile technologies. “North Korea began launching satellites by means of rockets-carriers in the 80-ies of the last century. Subsequently, in accordance with the existing plans, North Korea will continue to develop rockets with greater take-off weight and to launch satellites”, – said the public official accompanying the journalists.
It is easy to explain the position of DPRK from the internal policy point of view. Not only will the centenary of Kim Il Sung be celebrated this week. On April 11 an enlarged plenary meeting of the Korean Workers’ Party will take place in Pyongyang. During the meeting the grandson of Kim Il sung 29-year-old Kim Jong-Yn shall be elected the General Secretary of the Party, as well as the Chairman of the Central Military Commission. Thus, the transfer of power to him from his father Kim Jong-Il, who died in the last December, will be formally completed.
Despite the easily predictable criticism from abroad, the current launch of the satellite must demonstrate to foreign observers, and first of all to the North Koreans, the cohesion and consistency of the new leadership. The internal policy clearly prevails there. And the US refusal to provide to Pyongyang the promised 240 thousand tons of food aid means little: this is only 4% of the DPRK annual needs.
However, the DPRK is quite used to a poor ration. But the fate of Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi, and explicit threats directed against Syria and Iran, obviously influenced the foreign policy of Pyongyang more than the change of leader in December.
“There is a feeling that the more frequent cases of a rough and even coersive external interference in the internal affairs of other countries can stimulate one or another authoritarian regime (and not only them) to possess nuclear weapons. I have, say, a nuclear bomb in my pocket, and no one will harm me, because it will cost him a lot. And he who has no bombs should wait for a “humanitarian” intervention,” – said the newly elected President of Russia Vladimir Putin in a policy article, published on the eve of the elections on March 4.
The situation with the DPRK perfectly fits into this picture.