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Print Edition> World
UPDATED: April 24, 2012 NO. 17 APRIL 26, 2012
Kim Jong Un's First Shot
Talks remain essential after North Korea's failed satellite launch
By Ding Ying

TOP LEADER: The DPRK's supreme leader Kim Jong Un greets soldiers at the April 15 military parade (ZHANG LI)

The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) failed to launch its Earth observation satellite on April 13, which gave the rest of the world some relief. The world had been focusing for a month on the scheduled satellite launch. If the satellite launch had succeeded, the situation on the Korean Peninsula would be even more tense.

But observers pointed out that even if the situation temporarily eases up, the DPRK will not give up its effort on its national defense development. Peaceful talks are still the final solution on the peninsula, especially after the DPRK's young new leader Kim Jong Un was officially elected to top posts.

An open show

Although the satellite launch failed, it reflected the DPRK's open and confident attitude. The technological show failed, but the political show succeeded.

Yang Xiyu, a research fellow with China Institute of International Studies (CIIS), pointed out that the whole satellite launch process showed a major change in the DPRK's attitude, which is more open and confident. The DPRK declared the launch schedule weeks before, invited international media to watch and film the launch, and admitted the failure.

"The DPRK showed the biggest transparency it could," said Yang. He recalled that the DPRK made two previous satellite launches in 1998 and 2009 respectively, which were both secretly carried out. The obvious change reflected the different thinking of the country's new leadership on politics, as well as on science and diplomacy, Yang said. Shortly after the launch this year, the DPRK announced the satellite failed to enter its orbit and scientists and technicians were trying to find the cause of the failure.

The DPRK held a military parade on April 15 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of founding leader Kim Il Sung. DPRK leader Kim Jong Un, who became first secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea, the DPRK's ruling party, first chairman of the DPRK National Defense Commission and the country's supreme leader several days before, was present at the event and made a public speech. This was very different from his father, Kim Jong Il, who rarely spoke in public.

Shen Dingli, a professor with Fudan University in Shanghai, said the failed satellite launch had achieved the DPRK's political goal. He specified that there were three main goals for the DPRK. The first was to break international restrictions. The second was to make its technology more advanced. The third was to show off the country's technology and capabilities before the whole world. The DPRK achieved the first two of the three goals, Shen said. Even though the launch failed, the DPRK accumulated experience for future success, he added.

Experts believe this was not the DPRK's last hi-tech show. Shen said the DPRK, unwilling to stand outside the aerospace club, must conduct more tests to realize its technological progress. He believed the next test will be carried out at a good political and diplomatic time after the country's technology is perfected.

Zhang Liangui, an expert on Korean Peninsula issues at the Party School of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, pointed out that the failed satellite launch delayed the showdown between Washington and Pyongyang. He said the U.S. Strategic Command issued a military plan for the DPRK in mid-February 2011. According to the plan, the United States would carry out a destructive attack with nuclear and conventional weapons against the DPRK's weapons of mass destruction once the DPRK obtained the ability to threaten the United States. If the recent satellite launch had succeeded, the United States might implement this military plan in advance, Zhang said, adding now the situation will stabilize for several years.

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