North Korea’s latest bid for attention

NORTH KOREA’S LATEST BID FOR ATTENTION…. North Korean officials made clear about a week ago that they intended to show off its new rocket technology. The move would violate U.N. resolutions and other international agreements, but North Korea not only ignored warnings, its leaders said any criticism of their rocket launch would be seen as a “hostile” act.

Earlier today, North Korea’s latest bid for attention left the launching pad.

North Korea defied the United States, China and a series of United Nations resolutions by launching a rocket on Sunday that the country said was designed to propel a satellite into space, but that much of the world viewed as an effort to prove it is edging toward the capability to shoot a nuclear warhead on a longer-range missile.

North Korea launched the rocket at 11:30 a.m. local time, or 10:30 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time, said the office of the South Korean president, Lee Myung-bak. Early reports from the Japanese prime minister’s office indicated that the three-stage rocket appeared to launch successfully, with the first stage falling into the sea between Japan and the Korean Peninsula, and the second stage into the Pacific. South Korea vowed a “stern and resolute” response to the North’s “reckless act.”

[W]hat may have mattered most to North Korea was simply demonstrating that it had the ability to launch a multistage rocket that could travel thousands of miles.

The motivation for the test appeared as much political as technological: After acquiring the fuel for six or more nuclear weapons during the Bush administration, and negotiating a halt of its main nuclear reactor in return for aid, North Korea’s recent statements appear to be a bid for attention from the Obama administration.

The notion that North Koreas were launching a satellite is, not surprisingly, very hard to believe. “If it were a satellite, there would be transmissions, but as of now it has not been confirmed,” said Takeo Kawamura, chief spokesman for the Japanese government. North Korea also launched a missile in 1998 and claimed to have put a satellite into orbit — it played “patriotic” North Korean songs, officials said — though that satellite didn’t appear to exist, either.

As for the White House’s response, President Obama said in a statement, “With this provocative act, North Korea has ignored its international obligations, rejected unequivocal calls for restraint and further isolated itself from the community of nations.”

So, what’s next? Japan’s livid, but resisted deploying its missile-defense system. The United Nations Security Council will meet in an emergency session today, and new sanctions will be on the table, but China is likely to veto.

And Obama administration officials, who expected and predicted the missile launch, reiterated its goal of international talks that would encourage North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program.

It’s worth keeping in mind, of course, that this situation is exceedingly dangerous in large part because the Bush administration pursued the dumbest possible U.S. policy towards North Korea, which allowed the rogue nation to develop its nuclear weapons in the first place.

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