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Nuclear Policy and North Korea

April 12, 2012

Kristen Trout ’15

Since the failure of the Taepodong-2 ballistic missile launch in 2009, North Korea has been steadily advancing their nuclear capabilities and policy. In early April 2012, North Korea made superior progress on their nuclear program by officially allowing the public and the media to analyze their new ballistic missile launching site near Pyongyang. The launch of their newest missile, the Unha-3 rocket, is planned to initiate within the week, April 12-16. According to Voice of America, the rocket will be projected south, near the Philippines and Indonesia.

The Unha-3 rocket’s technological developments are not said to be superior to that of its predecessor, the Taepodong-2. Attached to the Unha-3 is a satellite, the Kwangmyongsong-3, for Earth and meteorological observations. Additionally, the Unha-3 is a three-stage launch system missile like the one used in the Taepodong-2 launch in 2009, capable of firing with Scud motors, SS-N-6 (also known as a submarine launch), and is propelled by two small motors. Though the current missiles are not capable of holding any nuclear warheads, North Korea’s missile program will soon have the technology to do so. According to Reuters, North Korea plans to have a third nuclear test, which stands to create further tensions with Western nations.

With the launch of the Unha-3 rocket set to occur within the week, many countries have begun to take action against North Korean nuclear activities. South Korea has been the biggest critic of North Korea’s planned rocket launch. The rocket’s trajectory will cut across the sea that separates China and South Korea. Reuters reports that South Korea has threatened to increase its separation from its enemy. China has also become a critic of North Korea’s nuclear program as well, even though it is economically and diplomatically connected with North Korea. In China’s opinion, the nuclear program gives the United States a reason to become deeply involved in East Asia again, something that China does not want. The nuclear program also means that Beijing and Shanghai are both in range of the missile. Due to their diplomatic relationship, China does have great influence on North Korea’s policy, but to exert their influence and change policy more force is required from China. Shim Jae Hoon, a South Korean commentator, states in the National Post, “The question is not if China has or doesn’t have leverage to pressure Pyongyang. The question is whether it wants to exercise that pressure.”

The last major power to be critical of North Korea’s nuclear policy is the United States. According to Fox News and White House press secretary Jay Carney, the White House has told North Korea that the launch would go against the “United Nations Security Council resolutions that explicitly prohibit North Korea from testing ballistic missiles.” According to Jay Carney, all three major critics of North Korea’s rocket launch desire “to work to persuade North Korea to consider a different path, the path that would lead to progress towards feeding its people, educating its people, and ending its severe, self-imposed isolation.”

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