By Ki m Young-jin
With North Korea’s failed satellite launch Friday, its new leader Kim Jong-un is apparently following in the footsteps of his father Kim Jong-il, who doggedly tested rockets, missiles and nuclear devices despite heavy international pressure under a long-term strategy to establish the North as a “powerful” state. The launch was widely seen as an attempt to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of delivering a nuclear payload.
“He was fulfilling what his father had left to be done,” Yoo Ho-yeol, an expert at Korea University, said, adding Pyongyang has indicated the decision to launch the rocket was made before the senior Kim’s death in December. “Kim Jong-un was meant to continue developing nuclear technology to defend the state.”
While the younger Kim’s emergence brought some hope for reform, many say the North is unlikely to give up its long pursuit of nuclear weapons technology for deterrence. The elder Kim, who died in December, is hailed by the North as shaping its “songun,” or military first ideology that dominated over all aspects of society and for developing a nuclear weapons program.
The launch intended to usher in an era of “strength and prosperity” in time for the 100th anniversary of the birth of country founder Kim Il-sung, which falls Sunday. Observers say that while the North’s propaganda has begun to emphasize economic development and quality of life issues, for the younger Kim, the moves to develop the nuclear program his father’s legacy are key to consolidating power.
The failed launch, which was meant to put a satellite into orbit, brought back memories of his father’s failed attempt in 2009, which both attended. A nuclear test followed shortly after. It recalled the elder Kim’s ability to keep the region on edge, as the launch occurred under intense international scrutiny, including from Pyongyang’s main benefactor, China.
It may also have shown Kim Jong-un’s willingness to go back on agreements, as Washington insists the move violated a February deal under which the North stood to gain nutritional assistance in exchange for steps to slow down the development of the program. The impoverished North has long wielded its nuclear threat during negotiations, winning assistance before backing out of its denuclearization commitments, later starting the cycle again.
Through such behavior, observers say Pyongyang has managed to buy itself the time to develop both its missile and nuclear technology through cooperation with countries such as Iran. Both are said to have been customers of a network run by Pakistani nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan. Intelligence officials here estimate the failed launch cost the North a whopping $850 million, which they say could feed some 19 million people for a year, amid chronic food shortages and malnutrition.
Daniel Pinkston, a deputy project director at the International Crisis Group’s Seoul branch, said international condemnation doesn’t enter into Pyongyang’s calculations, as it has long shown its commitment to developing the program.
“They approach the world in a different way,” said Pinkston. “They realize there is a short-term cost but think that people will have to recognize their strength and power. It’s a long-term investment.”
“They think: ‘Once we do this, we have this capability, we are strong we are powerful, then people will respect us they will treat us as equals.’ It’s very realist in its orientation.”
It remained to be seen how the launch might affect the massive celebrations for the founder’s birthday. The new leader has received a series of new titles to formalize his power this week, including first secretary of the ruling Worker’s Party. Kim Jong-il was made “Eternal General Secretary” during a North Korean Workers’ Party meeting Wednesday.
Source: Koreatimes ,