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Thursday, July 06, 2006

The North Korean Crisis

Media reports indicate that the recent test firing of missiles by the North Korean government all resulted in missiles falling harmlessly into the ocean. The launch of the Taepodong-2 missile, a long range ICBM, has been widely reported as a failure and a telling indication of North Korea's missile program. Once again, I think the media has it wrong. The very fact that North Korea launched missiles in defiance of the international community, and faced absolutely no repercussions whatsoever, is an overwhelming success for North Korea.

The "unsuccessful" test of the Taepodong-2 missile was, in a manner of speaking, simply a testing of the waters. Kim Jong Il fired some missiles into the ocean. This was not a particularly threatening action. The Taepodong-2 missile cut out shortly after launch (before things could escalate: the US could likely not have shot it down that quickly, and North Korea would not have to respond to a US show of weapon supremacy). Kim Jong Il did succeed in launching the Taepodong-2 missile in that he showed that he could and would despite international pressure. The fact that the missile fell harmlessly into the ocean is convenient for everyone involved.

Kim Jong Il can now sit back and see if there is any fallout for his actions. So far there has been none and there is likely to be little actual fallout beyond a potential "condemnation" by the UN. Facing no severe consequences will embolden Kim Jong Il and will escalate the crisis. Unless the international community make a swift and severe response, Kim Jong Il will continue to push the bounds until the international community gives in to his demands.

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