Rocket launch may bring more iso­la­tion

Sanc­tions pos­si­ble as U.N., U.S. con­demn ‘provoca­tive act.’

Austin American-Statesman - - THE SECOND FRONT -

PY­ONGYANG, NOrth KOreA — In Py­ongyang, North Kore­ans clinked beer mugs and danced in the streets to cel­e­brate the coun­try’s first satel­lite in space. In Washington, Seoul and Tokyo, lead­ers pushed for con­se­quences for Wed­nes­day’s suc­cess­ful rocket launch, widely seen as a test that takes the coun­try one step closer to be­ing ca­pa­ble of lob­bing nu­clear bombs over the Pa­cific.

The sur­pris­ing, suc­cess­ful launch of a three­stage rocket — sim­i­lar in de­sign to a model ca­pa­ble of car­ry­ing a nu­cle­artipped war­head as far as Cal­i­for­nia — raises the stakes in the in­ter­na­tional stand­off over North Korea’s ex­pand­ing atomic ar­se­nal. As Py­ongyang re­fines its tech­nol­ogy, its next step may be con­duct­ing its third nu­clear test, ex­perts warn.

The U.N. Se­cu­rity Coun­cil, which has pun­ished North Korea re­peat­edly for de­vel­op­ing its nu­clear pro­gram, con­demned the launch af­ter a closed-door meet­ing Wed­nes­day and said it will ur­gently con­sider “an ap­pro­pri­ate re­sponse.” The White House called the launch a “highly provoca­tive act that threat­ens re­gional se­cu­rity,” and even the North’s most im­por­tant ally, China, ex­pressed re­gret.

In Py­ongyang, how­ever, pride about the sci­en­tific ad­vance­ment out­weighed the fear of greater in­ter­na­tional iso­la­tion and pun­ish­ment. North Korea, though strug­gling to feed its peo­ple, is now one of the few coun­tries to have suc­cess­fully launched a work­ing satel­lite into space from its own soil; bit­ter ri­val South Korea is not on the list, though it has tried.

“It’s really good news,” North Korean cit­i­zen Jon Il Gwang said as he and scores of other Py­ongyang res­i­dents poured into the streets af­ter a noon an­nounce­ment to cel­e­brate the launch by danc­ing in the snow. “It clearly tes­ti­fies that our coun­try has the ca­pa­bil­ity to en­ter into space.”

The North Amer­i­can Aero­space De­fense Com­mand con­firmed that “ini­tial indi­ca­tions are that the mis­sile de­ployed an ob­ject that ap­peared to achieve or­bit.”

The launch could leave Py­ongyang even more iso­lated and cut off from much-needed aid and trade.

The U.N. im­posed two rounds of sanc­tions af­ter nu­clear tests in 2006 and 2009 and or­dered the North not to con­duct any launches us­ing bal­lis­tic mis­sile tech­nol­ogy.

The White House con­demned what Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil spokesman Tommy Vi­etor called “yet an­other ex­am­ple of North Korea’s pat­tern of ir­re­spon­si­ble be­hav­ior.”

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