Satellite Launch? Missile Test?

North Korea has conducted whatever it was going to conduct and we’re still not sure whether it was a satellite launch or a missile test:

SEOUL — North Korea defied the United States, its allies and a series of U.N. resolutions by launching a rocket on Sunday that it said propelled a satellite into space but that much of the world viewed as an unsuccessful effort to prove it is edging toward the capability to shoot a nuclear warhead on a longer-range missile.

The United States Northern Command issued a statement that North Korea’s Taepodong 2 missile flew over Japan, with its payload landing in the Pacific Ocean. “No object entered orbit and no debris fell on Japan,” the assessment said.

The North Koreans continue to claim a successful satellite launch but the South Koreans say that all three stages fell into the ocean. As of this writing NASA has not catalogued any new orbital object in its satellite database.

At this point it appears that the facts are something along the following lines. North Korea has conducted a test of their Taepodong-2 missile that was more successful than the previous test several years ago in which the vehicle failed to leave the launchpad. Here’s how the Union of Concerned Scientists characterized the TD-2:

David C. Wright, a senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, a private group in Cambridge, Mass., said that if successful, the North Korean rocket might have been able to lift a small satellite of 100 kilograms, of 220 pounds, into an orbit some 400 kilometers high. If used as a ballistic missile, he added, the rocket might have thrown a warhead of 1,000 kilograms to a distance of some 6,000 kilometers, far enough to hit parts of Alaska.

Western analysts agree that North Korea’s missile launching is a military endeavor, despite its payload of an experimental communications satellite and its cocoon of North Korean propaganda. Starting with Sputnik in 1957, most of the world’s intercontinental ballistic missiles began life as satellite launchers.

That’s troubling but it poses no real threat to the continental United States either by missile strike or by EMP weapon. Considering the intimacy of the relationship between the North Korean missile program and the Iranian missile program, that constitutes a significantly greater threat to the Europeans than it does to us.

President Obama has called for the UN Security Council to take action against North Korea:

PRAGUE — President Obama said that North Korea violated international rules when it tested a rocket that could be used for long-range missiles, and he called on the United Nations Security Council to take action.

“This provocation underscores the need for action, not just this afternoon at the Security Council but in our determination to prevent the spread of these weapons,” Mr. Obama said. “Rules must be binding. Violations must be punished. Words must mean something.”

The United States Northern Command issued a statement that North Korea’s taepodong 2 missile flew over Japan, with its payload landing in the Pacific Ocean.

A special meeting of the UNSC is scheduled for today to discuss the matter. Realistically, I think there is no hope whatever for additional economic sanctions or other measures against North Korea. Veto-wielding China, North Korea’s primary patron, simply won’t allow it.

It will be interesting to see how “words must mean something” translates into action in the face of a UNSC that’s essentially powerless to act any farther with respect to North Korea.

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Dave Schuler
About Dave Schuler
Over the years Dave Schuler has worked as a martial arts instructor, a handyman, a musician, a cook, and a translator. He's owned his own company for the last thirty years and has a post-graduate degree in his field. He comes from a family of politicians, teachers, and vaudeville entertainers. All-in-all a pretty good preparation for blogging. He has contributed to OTB since November 2006 but mostly writes at his own blog, The Glittering Eye, which he started in March 2004.

Comments

  1. Bill H says:

    “Words must mean something.”

    Ins’t that the exact same thing that Bush said with respect to Iraq, and in justification for invading Iraq? No, I don’t think Obama is working up to a “NK has WMD”-based juctification for invasion, but we just do NOT need this kind of rhetoric.

  2. The experimental communication satellite was successful. The satellite’s communication: SEND US MORE MONEY NOW!

  3. Eneils Bailey says:

    “Words must mean something.”

    Such as:
    The mantra of “Hope and Change.”
    Words ignored by the deranged.

    They mean nothing; given the lack of a spine, the lack of intellect, and the lack of experience to faithfully execute the duties of your office. The first being to protect and defend the citizens of this country.
    Crawling on your knees to the United Nations is like crawling into Madoff’s office with a pocket full of money. Yeah, I know Bush did it, went to the UN, presented his case, ignored their ineptitude, and then kept us safe for over seven years. I just hope we are fortunate enough for the next seven or so years not to suffer these “man-made disasters” again.

    And I agree with several pundits that I saw earlier on some News shows today. Look, you third world despots and terrorist’s groups, we have something we can sell to you. Launching the missile was a product demonstration. We have no natural resources, no manufactured products, no acceptable cultural products we can sell you. But we do have the ability to give you products bestowed on us by the lovely Madame Madeline Albright through the Clinton Administration.

    The civilized world will live on, as long as we fight to keep it as such.

  4. JKB says:

    To complete the thought:

    “Violations must be punished.[So it’s a timeout for North Korea] Words must mean something. [I have no idea what they should mean but George Bush said it so it must be true]

  5. Eneils Bailey says:

    I don’t get it, but I guess you jerking certain ideological thoughts out of the ether is good for you but never satisfied me.

    So it’s a timeout for North Korea.

    It should also be a “lights out for the North Korean Party.”

    “George Bush said it so it must be true.”
    Yeah, GWB said a lot of things, some of them were barely intelligible. I guess he needed twelve teleprompters with him at all times to be understood.

  6. Michael says:

    Considering the intimacy of the relationship between the North Korean missile program and the Iranian missile program, that constitutes a significantly greater threat to the Europeans than it does to us.

    Only if you assume that Iran is a threat to Europe. I can’t think of any scenario where Iran decides to lob missiles at Italy.

    Russia, Britain and France all have nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them anywhere on the continent. Historically, Europeans should have much more to fear from those than anything in Iran.

  7. Drew says:

    “Only if you assume that Iran is a threat to Europe. I can’t think of any scenario where Iran decides to lob missiles at Italy.”

    And Israel? Or don’t they count?

  8. anjin-san says:

    And Israel? Or don’t they count?

    Do you have anything beyond right-wing dogma that would lead you to think Iran is suicidal?

  9. Michael says:

    And Israel? Or don’t they count?

    Israel isn’t in Europe, so no, they don’t count when we’re talking about threats to Europe.

    Also, Iran is already capable of lobing missiles into Israel, so this latest development really doesn’t change anything for that situation.

  10. davod says:

    “Do you have anything beyond right-wing dogma that would lead you to think Iran is suicidal?”

    Yes. Islamic Dogma.

    Roosevelt – Speak Softly and Carry a big stick.

    Obama – Speak loudly and carry a feather.

    Someone needs to start a translation dictionary Obamian – Orwellian – English.

  11. sam says:

    @davod, after consulting his glands:

    Obama – Speak loudly and carry a feather.

    Someone needs to start a translation dictionary Obamian – Orwellian – English.

    And, drawing on your deep knowledge of and experience in foreign and military affairs, your solution is exactly what? We’re all on tenterhooks here.

  12. davod says:
  13. davod says:

    “And, drawing on your deep knowledge of and experience in foreign and military affairs, your solution is exactly what? We’re all on tenterhooks here.”

    Sam: Words of appeasement are always looked upon as brilliant statesmanship by friends and sycophants of the speaker and weakness by those who would act against the interests of the country involved.

  14. An Interested Party says:

    Bush…kept us safe for over seven years.

    Ahh, I love that conservative logic…shame he didn’t keep us safe on that particular September day…

  15. Looks like another failed attempt. 3rd stage apparently failed, and ended up in the ocean. They are still where they were before the launch — capable of a crude intermediate range launch, but not capacity for intercontinental range yet. Also, no evidence, of course of any new capacity on creating a reliable miniturized nuke. Until they either get a working 3 stage rocket or manage to get a nuclear device down to sub-1000 kg, I am not gonna take these guys too seriously.

    At this point, I think that regime collapse is still likely to occur before they pose a threat to the U.S. So… I will be sleeping well tonight.

  16. anjin-san says:

    Islamic Dogma.

    How many wars has Iran started in the last century?

  17. sam says:

    Following Bernard,

    North Korean Missile Launch Was a Failure, Experts Say

    North Korea failed in its highly vaunted effort to fire a satellite into orbit, military and private experts said Sunday after reviewing detailed tracking data that showed the missile and payload fell into the sea. Some said the failure undercut the North Korean campaign to come across as a fearsome adversary able to hurl deadly warheads halfway around the globe.

  18. sam says:

    @davod

    Words of appeasement are always looked upon as brilliant statesmanship by friends and sycophants of the speaker and weakness by those who would act against the interests of the country involved.

    Yada yada. Still waiting for what you would do.

  19. Bithead says:

    Well done, Davod, but the facts you show run counter to anjin’s fantasy. His history shows he ignores things like that, every single time.

  20. davod says:

    “Islamic Dogma.

    How many wars has Iran started in the last century?”

    Where have you been since 1979?

  21. davod says:

    Sam

    I would do the following:

    Go back to U.N. Security Council Resolutions 1695 and 1718 (which followed the North’s 2006 ballistic missile and nuclear tests), and work to have them strengthened.

    “Declare North Korea’s repeated refusal to honor its commitments, especially but not exclusively concerning full disclosure of its nuclear programs, unacceptable.

    Suspend the Six-Party Talks, and reconvene talks without North Korea.

    Strengthen international pressure on North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.

    Squeeze North Korea economically.

    Prepare contingency plans for humanitarian relief in the event of increased North Korean refugee flows or a regime collapse.”*

    More details are available here:* Backbone.

  22. Dave Schuler says:

    China is the dog in the manger in any attempt to influence North Korea. No measure that doesn’t have China’s support can be effective and China won’t support an effective sanction.