Posts Tagged ‘North Korea’

The North Korea Nuclear Launch Sites are Closed – But Kim Keeps the Key

April 21, 2018

Christopher Lee

21 April 2018, London

Kim Jong-un says North Korea has developed ‘weaponisation” so from this passing weekend, North Korea will stop testing.

Nuclear weapons engineers will say this is nonsense. The job of being a nuclear weapon state has only just begun.

But for the moment at least, North Korea has reached the goal of its leader, that of a state able to put even a small nuclear warhead on a long range missile, fire that missile into outer space and then guide its return into the earth’s atmosphere, release warheads and direct each one onto targets that include the United States, certainly China and certainly Japan.

That makes North Korea a member of an exclusive club that somewhere has a technology base that can return to production and ever be in scientific and technological research state to bring the missile and the guidance and launch systems to a longer range and higher readiness, the re-entry process more reliable and the delivery systems more accurate and threatening.

President Trump should not need to be told this.

The series of North South and East-West meetings begin this coming week. North and South Korea meet openly, US-Korean officials meet quietly and then, perhaps as early as June, President Trump meets President Kim.

At that point, Kim Jong-Un achieves that which has eluded himself, his ancestors and something which is not always understood in Western capitals. President Kim has yearned for respect as a ‘proper’ leader of an important country. He reads the progress in international recognition achieved by Pakistan when it became a nuclear weapons power and immediately a state able to kill millions of its decades old enemy India at the press of half a dozen buttons.

In just a decade of fast technology he’s made the US take him seriously. Rocket Man is not a joke Trump lyric.

He may tell us that North Korea’s nuclear weapons ambitions are over, but like the rest of the black mushroom growers, the genii is out of the bottle. His people know how to do it and, who knows when the disappointment of international treatment and recognition will mean a return to the test sites.

And to test the value of his new position, remember that Mr Kim will be receiving Mr Trump, not the other way round. Mr Trump has to go to him. Mr Kim will step his own higher ground.

What would they want? An official end to the Korean War. That is an easy found formality. A recognition that North Korean is an equal partner in the strategic balance of the Korean Peninsular, Eastern China and Japan for starters. That is status worth having. It will also be a process that leads to the true lessening of conflict: sign a contract with a potential enemy that boosts its economy and allows the country to grow for a fat enemy rarely goes to war.

The bringing about of this summit, if it happens, will be largely the work of President Moon of South Korea with the nitty sorted by the three heads of Intelligence of America, South Korea and North Korea.

Mr Kim will get his respect and will settle some of the uncertainties of the ruling North Korean families who are saying the Mr Kim must change his ways if the country is not to fold economically and collapse. Mr Moon will sweep aside the continued feeling that he could fall at any moment. And Mr Trump?

In America, even senior politicians have never heard of any efforts other than the tough-talk of their President. If it works, he will be the man who brought 60 years of crisis to an end and made Kim Jong-un close down his nuclear threat.

The tailpiece in Washington to this is an irony: undoubtedly, if a June meeting is the type of success we imagine, then there will a strong movement for a Nobel Peace Prize. So? So there is no way the FBI could file against a Peace Nobel Laureate Trump.

Could anything spoil what is possible? Yes.

Whatever agreement between North Korea and the US, it is extremely likely that Congress will not ratify any treaty on the grounds of it being impossible to verify North Korea keeping the test sites closed.

In other words, June’s not far but there are years to go before Mission Accomplished make sense.


Kim Jong-un unveils his new team. Safe or dirty hands?

May 3, 2016


4 May 2016


Next Friday stare hard at North Korea. Remember what and who you see. On Friday 6 May in North Korea, after more than 30 years wait, there will be a Party Congress – a meeting of apparatchiks and keepers of the inner sanctum of North Korean power.

The faces that will appear will be in new places.  The names will change to protect the innocent?  There is none. This is the meeting that is supposed to take place every five years.  Not one has stood up since the last one in 1980 to ask why no one has put out the chairs.  Only the leader can say and anyone who tries to will probably get what was coming to him anyway – even Kim Jung-un’s relatives do not scare the executioner in that place.

So why have the Congress now?

This is Kim Jung-un’s Coronation. In spite of the smiles, spontaneous clapping at his very appearance it has taken until now for the Dear Leader to get his ducks in a row, shoot those who stood crookedly or to his liking and put in place those he can trust – for the moment. This is his moment to set out his own way of running North Korea and not to be a bag carrier for policies written in the time of his father, Kim Jong-il.

All major committee chairmen and senior members will be appointed and plans for the ambitions of each section of the governance of North Korea will be recognized. New-old faces, new-old policies are part of the code-breaking efforts of trying to read North Korea. There is little point in looking for new guidelines.

What we should look for are the handful of people with power that survive, step forward for the first time or in one particular case, is brought from retirement. For that is the way of the political musical chairs in North Korea.

This is the political postcard of easy targets for the executioners or hard seats for the new men who will keep the Dear Leader in power?

In short, Kim Jong-un appears to have cleared out the old guard some of whom were hang overs from the 1950s and 1960s and who owed their ranks and badges to Kim Jong-un’s father, Kim Jong-il

The most powerful man in the army Rim Kwang Il is now Director of the KPA – the Korean Peoples Army. He has spent most of the past twenty years eye-balling South Korea and deciding how the KPA would take out South Koreran units and US forces if the long truce should rupture.

And there is a new man as head of the United Front Department directing Intelligence and Policy towards South Korea, Kim Yong Chol. This 4-star general, just turned 70, has control of everything that matters in civilian and military Intelligence. He is also virtually in command of cyber warfare.

The third appointment is the most interesting, Ri Myong Su. He is getting on: 82 and had retired two years ago. But he is to be trusted and the people trust him as one of the reliables of a quarter of a century ago. Most of all, Kim Jung-un will need a safe pair of hands if, as he suspects, the Americans and Japanese (perhaps too the Chinese) are preparing to put pressure on North Korea to abandon the high grade nuclear weapons programme.

The order of battle (orbat) and technological changes in the North Korean army demand new strategies to handle so-called advances. Even the form battle may be fought must change. We think we have seen in the North Korean Operations Bureau more changes at highest levels (seven directors moved out five different defence ministers appointed by Kim Jong-un) than ever before Kim Jong-un took tacit power on 11 October 2011.

But what we really need to know is this: Are these movements of personalities a prelude to a complete change in the way the chiefs of staff corridor operates and an end to the series of denunciations and therefore a feeling that Kim Jong-un is at last getting his military house in order.

The second consideration is something that has been suspected for the past six months or so: Kim Jong-un now has, or thinks he has, a full nuclear/conventional military orbat. So the question is obvious: Friday’s Congress consolidates the authority of the Dear Leader and also the commanding positions of the new order. It comes with more military muscle than he has ever had. It is not a question of will he use it and if so what for.  It is a question of who of the new and the trusted people on Friday has the confidence to see that the new order is used wisely.

A wrong move or worse, a wrongly interpreted step will give the executioner a day’s work and the region the shivers.



North Korea’s nuclear target: Hiroshima?

February 7, 2016


6 February 2016, London

The North Koreans have done what the Dear Leader Kim Jong-un said they were going to do; they have launched another rocket claiming that it was putting a satellite into space.

The Americans have not done what they said they were going to do. Reprisals.

The Japanese have not done what they said they were going to do: shoot it down if they feel threatened. They feel threatened.

Back in 1957, the Soviet Union space department launched the first satellite into space, Sputnik 1.  That was the start of the Cold War threat called intercontinental nuclear warfare and it lead to the doctrine of Mutual Assured Destruction. Why? Because you cannot put a satellite into space unless you have built a rocket capable of taking the satellite there – into space.  Once you have built that rocket it gets a second name: missile.

The same rocket/missile is what it takes to put a re-entry vehicle into space that comes back into the atmosphere to hit a target on earth.

That is the system the British and American use in their Trident missiles (the US has also 450 Minuteman III)).  It is the same used by the Russians in their 13 types of ICBMs (Ballistic missiles) including Scarp, Satan, Tool, Stingray, Skiff and Bulava (these are the NATO names for the Russian missiles). China is in there too with Dong Feng, the Israelis with Jericho III, Pakistan Taimur and India is developing Agni VI.

Kim Jong-un thinks that is a good club to join.  Every one respects its members.

The rocket firing from North Korea on Sunday last does not change the strategic balance in Asia or anywhere else.  However we should reasonably suspect that the Dear Leader is trying to join the ICBM club.

Kim Jong-un would then expect the other nuclear club members to take him seriously.  Show some respect is the way he sees it. No one messes with a man who has a long range rocket that he now calls a missile especially if he is developing a fission and after that a nuclear fusion warhead.

Kim Jong-Ng would like respect.  Read North Korean statements on bi-lateral talks with almost anyone especially the US.  Somewhere in each statement there is a veiled or upfront demand for respect.  That is not the clue to dealing with the Dear Leader but it is something we have to take on board if we are going to get to Key Stage 2 with him.

Instead the United Nations is stumbling about trying to fix a lot of sanctions that will bring Kim Jung-un to heel. Sanctions? He self-imposes.  The North Koreans have more self-inflicted sanctions than the Sicarii rebels of first century Masada.

So where are we with the North Korean leader?

He has a crude nuclear capability.  His scientists tell him that he has better than that – a fusion bomb. There is evidence to suggest they are telling him what he wants to hear. They are close, but no cigar. But soon it will happen.

His rocket engineers are more or less there.  They need enhanced stage propulsion and then the capability of remote command for re-entry.

But then what? What would he do with it? First he has capability that cannot be ignored. A place at arms control talks?  Kim Jong-un does not go to arms control talks nor does he need to. Who needs arms control when you have just arrived on the block?

The Future Intentions (for that read Nightmares) Intelligence Analysts outside Washington DC have a recurring and increasingly mind-cramping scenario in wargaming. In time of amazing regional tension, the Dear Leader will order nuclear release on two targets. Neither will be South Korean nor American bases.

The gamers say the targets would be: Hiroshima on Day One and Nagasaki on Day Two.  Respect? Then what do the UN Sanctions Planners do?






Just how dangerous is the world today?

October 10, 2015


12 October 2015


The way it sounds on the networks and the OpEd pages the world is close to WWIII. Syria is on the brink of something although few pundits can say what. Afghanistan is about to go under. A second Intifada is revving up. NATO is sending more troops to the old Soviet borders. Oil is creeping back – a sure sign that no one is in control. Gold is up – a sure sign that a global problem is slipping into crisis status.

But is the world really in such a social and security meltdown? Could it just be that the globe is coping with little local difficulties and not much more? A quick round-up from East to West is in everyone’s interests.

North Korea beloved leader Kim Jong-un said a couple of days ago that his country is easily ready to defend itself if the United States starts trouble. His corps de ballet militaire performed exquisitely in Pyongyang’s main square, jets flew above in tight formation, tanks and full missile carriers rumbled below and Mr Kim made his first public speech in three years. Then they went home. Not even a missile test worth the bang.

China is building artificial islands in South China Sea and America and Japan says they should not and so China has carried on building knowing that no one is going to war over this.

In Sri Lanka the civil war moral tragedy is a matter for the UN but no one is fighting.

To the north, Pakistan and India still disagree over Kashmir, but apart from a few practise shots, no one is going to war over that blunder as once they did.

In Afghanistan, the security mess will get worse, Taliban (Afghanistan) and Taliban (Pakistan) will make inroads, the Americans will deploy troops for longer than expected, but there is nothing going on that suggests a return to the events of the opening decade and a half of this century.

In Africa, there is no way that Libya is on the road to peaceful government but nor is the carnage of just a couple of years back being repeated.

Further south the Boko Haram threat is broadened but not any greater.  The gunmen are on the streets of Guinea but the elections will go ahead as planned.

The UN has 19,000 troops in the Democratic Republic of Congo, 12500 in South Sudan, 12,000 in the Central African Republic and 10,000 in Mali.  Something’s working there in spite of minor conflicts, skirmishes, coups and corruption as a matter of course.

In Europe, there is Ukraine.  Potentially but mostly theoretically, there is a chance of an East West confrontation but not really. Why?  Because in spite of posturing and statements from NATO, the Alliance will not go to the mattresses over Ukraine and Russia bets on this.  There’s nothing doing in the rest of Europe other than a few separatist groups.

Of course there is Syria etc.  Is it so bad in historical warfare terms? Just about. Two years from the original protest in Damascus in March 2011, the deaths had reached 100,000.  That was a landmark figure that continued to multiply and does not look like stopping. Daesh or whatever we are to call the butcher terrorists is all about asymmetric warfare.  It is not state on state and thus, and this is hard to say, not so bad as might have been.

So this very crude audit of world warfare says there is plenty of politics, plenty of $m ordnance being used but not so many killed.

In truth 95% of the world is not at war. Most people have never heard a shot fired in anger. We might think on that as part of the reason that there are no boots on the ground anywhere that matters.

Christopher Lee

April 7, 2013


North Korea: US Runs Scared And Aunty Calls The Shots

7th April 2013

As the US cringes before the brain-challenged image of Kim Jong-un and postpones this week’s American ballistic missile test, guys traveling down here from Pyongyan tell me two things: the US missile postponement is nothing to do with diplomacy and,  we really should get to know Kim’s auntie.  Let me explain.

The US has announced that it will not be test firing a missile from its west coast because it may be seen as a provocative act by the North Koreans and that will only get them spiking the military rhetoric.  Washington is being pretty cool and responsible? That’s not the way the North Koreans see it.

The reason the Americans are not firing up the ballistic missile is that it was not a test for that piece of hardware.  What was supposed to have happened is this: the ballistic missile is fired. Then a second missile, called an anti-ballistic missile, is fired at the first one to knock it out.  But similar tests have not been too good. Most of the anti missile rockets have thus far missed!  Get the problem for the US?

If this week’s test had been a failure for the anti-missile weapon as earlier ones were, you would have heard hours and hours of Kim Jong-un that North Korea rules OK and that they would be firing a missile at Guam because the American technology was far behind North Korea’s and that the announcement last week the US was deploying anti missile defences to Guam was a joke – all in one breath.

Just to prove the point, Kim would have been shown on NK TV pressing the red button to fire one of his missiles over Japan into the ocean and then asking where was the mighty western superpower with all its hardware?

So imagine what American allies in the China Seas littoral states would think: America could not defend them, so why sign up for this confrontation?

That’s the straightforward read-out of the US diplomatic move to calm the situation this week: not diplomacy, just a safe bet that its military might display would have been a failure. This is not the week to show the world that a lot of the US military machine is like a 1950s automobile – plenty chrome but no starter motor.

Now we come to the best part of the travelers tales from north of the DMZ.

If you really want to know who pulls the strings in North Korea, forget the chubby kid with the crazy hair.  The place is being run by Rosa Klebb, the nastiest bit of work ever seen in a Bond movie. Dear old Rosa was a fiction of course.  The real Rosa Klebb is Kim Jong-un’s little ol’ aunty who goes by the handle, Kim Kyong-hui.  She is the power behind the reinforced concrete throne of the boy leader in Pyongyang.

Her day job is director of North Korea’s Department of Organization and Guidance.  If the Department says it, you do it.  If the department says don’t do it, guess what? You don’t do it.  If of course you think you’re smart and disobey Kim Kyong-Klebb’s department, then it’s not even a trip to the salt mines.  Dead simple, go against the system and you’re toast. She’s that powerful.

Ms Kim was the sister of the last beloved leader, Kim Jong-il.  When even he realized his days were coming to an unbelievable end, he anointed his son Kim Jong-un as successor and put his sister in charge of teaching the young man to walk and chew rhetoric at the same time.  It was she who orchestrated the latest tirade but it was not to test America.  

She had two reasons: this was a test on the resolve and reaction of the just elected leader of South Korea President Park.  Ms Park also comes from a distinguished political dynasty.  Kim Kyong-Klebb needed to know how tough she was.  She’s found out that Ms Park is tough indeed.

The second purpose of what has become an international incident was to show that she’d brought on the boy as a good enough leader to rule over any officials and in particular any military clique who thought he was soft in the head and that the time was approaching for the generals to take over.

With a lot of help from the American, Aunty Kim has had a good couple of weeks.

So watch out for the token missile firing (the North Korean one that is) and US-China backstairs diplomacy to get on not quite new best friend terms with Kim Jong-un.  If it works, then it’ll be because Aunty says so.

Christopher Lee

March 31, 2013


Korea: The Director’s Cut.  Not Good Viewing

30th March 2013

Kim Jong-un is the movie buff who runs North Korea and wants a silo-load of nuclear tipped missiles to frighten the other guy, the other guy being President Barack Obama who is not a movie buff  but does have enough nuclear warheads to meltdown North Korea in an afternoon.

Kim Jong-un hasn’t the firepower to melt a marshmallows.  You would have thought no contest.  You would have thought wrong.

The North Korean has America prancing around the region like a tag wrestler winding up his image; China wondering what the hell it has to do to keep junior in line; the Japanese doing gold pen affairs on any defence treaty that will make them feel secure – which they will not – and, South Korea saying that maybe the latest north-south of the Panmunjon line spat is just another incident and it’ll go away some time soon.

There’s major problem in all this. Kim the movie man has to learn the difference between a trailer and a main feature and Washington is banking on this. So is China. So is Japan.


Kim has ordered his troops to go stand-by for a full scale war against America and South Korea.  He’s pulled the plug on the hot line. He’s told his rocketeers to point them south – long range and short. Targets are on his mental pinboard: Guam. Hawaii. Washington State and DC – he doesn’t care which zip code gets it.

According to this man “The time has come to settle accounts with the U.S. imperialists in view of the prevailing situation.” Which is what?

Back in February, Kim’s people ran a nuclear test. The UN, egged by the US, raised further sanctions on North Korea. The Americans are running manoeuvres with the South Korean military.  They’ve flown a couple of long range Stealth bomber operations over the Korean peninsular, had two dummy bombing B-52s in the area and made sure Kim’s seen the newsreels.

Kim says all this is bad news and shows no respect for his position.  He does not mention that he has to prove to his generals that he’s no easy shake down when it comes to facing off Obama. So then we get warm to the problem.

It could be of course that Kim is hanging on to an old North Korean tradition.  Every time there is a new President in South Korea, the North Koreas wing off a couple of rounds and test the resolve of the new man.  Just last month, South Korea got a new President, Park Geun-hye.   

Well that could explain everything excepting that Kim needs fast track nuclear weapons development so that he can get one-on-one respect from the US because any White House will be nervous of any genuine nuclear power.  Kim knows his recent history.  

India and Pakistan were given a hard time by America when it was heard they may be getting into nuclear weapons.  But once they were in, the rhetoric from Pennsylvania Avenue dropped to flesh pressing and newest best friends rating.  

And now Kim sees Iran getting the hard time from America just like him.  He also senses that if America had been going to do something about Iran, they would have done so or got their Middle East legman, Israel to do it.  They may still happen but Kim is not betting what’s left of the North Korean ranch on it.

But Washington’s nervousness is that Obama’s analysts are telling him that Kim has pulled this Red Alert trick before and backed down. So nothing to worry about.  Not so say Obama’s think tankers.  Could be that Kim realizes that his own generals and the crowds in the big state capital Pyongyang Square on 24-hour demo are going to be thinking that the wonderful leader is just big on screaming Death To The US Imperialists and nothing else.  Seems the whole nation is short on respect.

So the real fear is not an all-out rocket attack from the North Koreans but just maybe there’ll be a couple of fly-over rockets and maybe a border incident, maybe two.

There’s a dull truth that the Americans don’t want to share.  North Korea really is on the same sort of position as Iran.  If Kim wants nuclear weapons, chances are that the US will not, in spite of the diplomatic arm twisting, be able to do anything about it.  In the Middle East, the people to stop the Iranians at lastminute-dot-bomb are the Israeli.  They have the regional interest that cannot be denied and the rest of the world that matters in this business will leave it to them.

In the Far East, China is the local Israel.  They have the most to lose if North Korea go nuclear. They may not pull a raid on the test facilities, but they are the only hope of cutting Kim down to size.

The realistic thinking in the White House is that China won’t do it and North Korea won’t go down the diplomatic trail.  Then what?  That’s the last superpower’s problem.  The US doesn’t know what to do.  They talk about Kim having something to prove.  He hasn’t really. But this American President has.  Next American president may well discover on her or his watch, that North Korea is about to get the kiloton magic mushroom.  Then what happens?  Washington doesn’t know. That is what’s known as scary diplomacy especially in a week when US movie buffs are watching a new release.  It’s theme is a North Korean attack on America. This is not a trailer.

Camridge-Washington Crisis Group

February 12, 2013


Christopher Lee

12th February 2013

US Sends Congratulations To North Korea For Its Third Nuclear Test


Great news from North Korea: they have successfully carried out a third nuclear test. 


It may not be enough for a full-fledged nuclear warhead, but they are getting there.  With this news, the North Koreans should be congratulated by all freedom loving governments. 


Those governments – Israel, the US, the UK, France, Russia, India, Pakistan and of course loving neighbor China – have great experience in this area and fully appreciate the determination and political courage it takes to get this far.


The North Koreans must be further congratulated on two major points:


Firstly they have coincided their rocket testing with the progress on nuclear development.


This shows the well thought through planning that the then Soviet Union started in 1957 and the second stage nuclear weapon development that even the United States struggled to achieve from 1968 onwards. 


So we know that both Russia and America will surely be sending Well Done flowers to Kim Il Un.  So too we imagine will the United Kingdom (sic) leader David Cameron who knows only too well the difficulty of reaching co-ordination stage in his own efforts to replace the UK Trident missile and Vanguard nuclear weapon-carrying submarines.   


It is hoped that progress in this area will continue apace until they get to the second congratulatory point:


What really gets the well-done applause from brother nuclear weapons states (see above) is that North Korea a small, starving, basket-case country has proved it can scare a whole chunk of the sophisticated world led by the United States.  Better still, that powerful group of nations can do absolutely nothing about it. 


The world message is easy in the extreme: if North Korea is determined to be a nuclear weapons power with long range delivery systems, then that’s what they should be allowed to be. 


In Washington, self-determination is celebrated as democracy. Washington does and admires others who do the same – with the US approving the democratic model of course.  Yes, Washington does democracy. 


For examples, if the US wants to invade Afghanistan or Iraq or if a guy wants to buy a semi-automatic firearm and kill half a classroom knowing that the gun buying laws are not going to change any time soon, then that’s self-determination and democracy. 


So far school gunmen have killed more than the North Korean program but of course not as many as the US nuclear weapons program (Japan will supply the exact figure for anyone really interested in accuracy).


So the big question is what’s next? For starters, everyone is looking to China.  At first sight, the folk over at Beijing truly have a problem. With North Korea going ahead with its N-Bomb program, China is now surrounded by nuclear weapon states – India, Pakistan, Russia and North Korea.


But the other way of looking at it is this: the US model of living with the bomb was known as MAD, Mutually Assured Destruction. The translation: you nuke me, I’ll nuke you. So, no winners and last man counting has no one to tell what he thinks anyway.


The new deal is a no-brainer.  Everyone who wants a nuclear warhead and the means to deliver it should be encouraged to get one. For example, if Iran gets a warhead, the Iran will get respect although maybe it will be literally short lived as Israel bombs it. 


But then Saudi Arabia will want its own bomb.  But of course, it won’t have to bother.  The US, full of democracy loving brotherhood for the princes of democratic principles running Saudi Arabia will offer to base a whole bunch of nuclear warheads just outside King Khaled Airport. Job done. Nuclear weapon balance sorted.


Of course, that’s the easy way when the brotherhood in North Korea show they’ve gone all the way with their nuclear program.  The US, generous as ever, will offer to put their nuclear warheads in downtown Seoul Special City and over on Honshu.  Thus the nuclear ring is complete.


Meanwhile, the so easily embarrassed Kim Il Un must hide his blushes and simply accept the congratulations of the existing nuclear weapons powers so that he can tell his loving and beloved people that empty bellies are worth having if it means that the presidents and prime ministers of the Major Magic Mushroom Cloud league of nations are at last showing the respect that the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea deserve.

Christopher Lee

December 12, 2012


North Korea takes another leap towards the devastation of mankind – and there’s nothing the UN, NATO nor the US can do about it.

This past week, the North Koreans stuck two fingers up to the so-called responsible international bodies – the United Nations and NATO – and successfully launched a ballistic rocket.

The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the launch and flight constituted “clear violation of the UN Resolution” passed in June 2009. The fact that any country in the world can ignore any UN resoltion and do what they like and that any country in the world can bend the meaning of any UN Resolution to do what the heck they like (the US British 2003 invasion of Iraq is a case in point) only shows Mr Ban’s words were as hollow as the diplomatic laughs it raiused in Pyongyang.

Then, up popped the Secretary General of NATO, the thoroughly likeable and capable Anders Fogh Rasmussen with a standard arrogance Atlantic Alliance arrogance: “This provocative act exacerbates tensions in the region and risks further destabilizing the Korean Peninsula. NATO continues to call on the North Korean authorities to fulfill their obligations under international law, to comply fully with the will of the international community as expressed by the United Nations Security Council and the moratorium on missile launches”.

The North Koreans, damned pleased with themselves said the rocket put a satellite in orbit. That’s standard non too difficult to figure technology that needs about the same computing power  as most people have in a 2G mobile phone and something the Japanese have been doing for more than 40 years since it launch its first satellite Osumi into orbit in 1970.  So, what’s the deal?

The clue is in the reaction here in Washington. People over at State say it is nothing less than a “highly provocative act that threatens regionally security”.  You can almost hear the then US President Dwight D Eisenhower uttering this mantra when he was told back in 1957 that the Soviet Union had launched Sputnik I. Eisenhower’s take was hard to forget: if the Soviet Union can launch a satellite into space then they can launch a nuclear warhead.  It was that moment that the fear and reality of intercontinental nuclear warfare was launched.

Is the North Korean launch in that league?  No. It is not because there is no Cold War born of counter-doctrine and massed armies across Europe. It is not because it does not appear, as the intercontinental fears did in 1957, as a contradiction to the then US policy of containment.

But if the comparison sets the tangents to mood, the real fear is three fold: it confirms the movement towards regional instability over which the main players have no good idea about what that will lead to; secondly, here is confirmation that North Korea needs no friends and so does not do conventional bargaining diplomacy and, thirdly it shows the world institutions and their drivers – mainly the five permanent members of the UN Security Council – have no power other than to doodle paper tigers.

Imagine the four local sensitivities. One: China thought it had a place as diplomatic guardian to North Korea.  It has not. Its state-run Xinhua news agency called on all parties to remain “cool headed” and engage in “trust-building measures”. Meaningless words and everyone knows that. Two: Japan has called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council.  To what end? Answer: none. Three: South Korea goes to the polls for a new president next week and so the rhetoric will be driven from outside the country – never access to stable elections even within a democracy. Four: the US with its publicly proclaimed increase in Pacific security can do nothing and there US standing is diminished.

Out of these four situations, which one is the more excitable?  The position of Japan is the most vulnerable.  

The Japanese still fear confrontation with North Korea.  Tokyo said this week that it thought the situation intolerable  These sound so-what? words but what could they mean?  They mean that the Japanese forces will remain on standby in case the North Koreans attempt to wind up the tense state by interfering with Japanese shipping, especially coastal command vessels or even firing upon Japanese patrols.  Sounds small military beer, but that’s how mini wars begin.  

Also, the Japanese government will at least consider the possibility of trashing its constitution position on nuclear forces and begin developing its own program.   Only imagine the consequences and the scenario of possibilities will be rreal enough.

The North Koreans believe they are safe from every anger shout in the diplomatic skirmish that is the political and international tailwind from this week’s launch.  The rocket does not mean that they have a nuclear delivery vehicle but it does demonstrate that they could make one – as soon as they have an idea of payload once the embryonic North Korean nuclear weapons program is advance – which as yet, it is not.

Those that puzzle over a solution to the nuclear warhead theatre now being created in the region will tell you that there is another area to remember: North Korea has craved international respect and not to be seen as a six lane highway of starvation with basketcase dictatorship directing the way towards further poverty and destitution. North Korea has long watched what happened to Pakistan, a country all but ignored by the United States until it became a nuclear weapon power. It is now feared because it could cause regional devastation and the fallout would cover the world and change the whole pattern of global command.

In other words, nuclear weapons get you respect. They also get you into hell.  The North Koreans may not be in hell, but from where they sit, they can see it.