Russia, US warn North Korea over missile launch

North Korea plans to launch a satellite into space sometime this week … if you believe their state-run media.  The DPRK’s neighbors believe that the military wants to run another test of its failure-plagued ballistic missile system, and in any case, the launch will violate a UN Security Council resolution that bars Pyongyang from any launch of its missiles.  The new regime of Kim Jong-un says it will proceed nonetheless:

Isolated and impoverished North Koreasaid on Tuesday it was ready to go ahead with its proposed long-range rocket launch, an announcement that sparked immediate condemnation from South Korea and Russia and a plea from China, its main ally, for calm. …

North Korea defended the launch as a sovereign right.

“The weight of our satellite is 100 kg. If it was a weapon, a 100 kg payload wouldn’t have much of an effect… Our launching tower is built on an open site,” said Ryu Kum-chol, vice director of the space development department of the Korean Central Space Committee.

Ryu said that the rocket assembly would be complete on Tuesday.

The US has already warned North Korea over the violation of the UNSC resolution.  Today, Russia added another warning:

“We consider Pyongyang’s decision to conduct a launch of a satellite an example of disregard forU.N. Security Council decisions,” state-run news agency RIA quoted Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich as saying.

“It is necessary to seek a way out of the situation on the political-diplomatic track,” he said.

Regional powers have said that what North Korea has described as the launch of a weather satellite, months after Kim Jong-un succeeded his father as the leader of the reclusive state, is a disguised test of a long-range ballistic missile.

Russia, which shares a short border with North Korea – Moscow’s client in the Soviet era – had urged Pyongyang last month to refrain from the launch, expressing serious concern and calling for restraint from all sides.

Japan, which would be the DPRK’s prime target in hostilities, has already taken steps to demonstrate that it won’t sit passively as Pyongyang tests out weapons meant for Tokyo:

Japan on Monday completed deployment of interceptor missiles to shoot down the North Korean rocket if it violated the country’s air space, the Defense Ministry said.

Japan’s Self-Defense Force (SDF) has installed ground-based Patriot Advanced Capability-3 interceptors on Okinawa, Ishigaki and Miyako islands and in Tokyo ahead of the North’s plan to launch a rocket to put a satellite into orbit between April 12 and 16. It has also sent Aegis destroyers to the East China Sea to deal with any situation.

The launch of the Kwangmyongsong-3 satellite using a long-range rocket from the country’s northwest has raised strong fears and unease in Japan and South Korea which allege that the rocket launch was aimed at testing the Communist State’s ballistic missile technology.

Well, that’s better than the US response to a previous missile test in 2009, when our best missile-defense asset sat in Pearl Harbor.  We didn’t want to annoy Kim Jong-il at the time.  Look how well that worked out!

Still, if Japan successfully shoots down the missile while flying over its territory, expect a great deal of … tension.  Japan will have the right to respond to such a provocation, especially since the UN has already forbidden such launches, which the UN has enforced by, well, demanding that North Korea comply with its resolution, and not much else.  That could provoke Pyongyang into retaliation either towards Japan or South Korea, either of which would involve the US in a shooting war with the North again — and could eventually bring China and Russia into the conflict, too.  On the other hand, given the DPRK’s track record on missile launches, Japan might just wait and let the rocket fall into the ocean on its own.

I’d guess that the Kim Jong-un just wants to engage in some brinksmanship to get more concessions in negotiations, but his father was crazy enough to launch several times, with no real consequences.  Until those consequences bite, don’t expect Pyongyang to do anything differently.