In the News – Rocket plan shows new N.K. regime’s ‘structural intransigence’: Lee advisor

In the News – Rocket plan shows new N.K. regime’s ‘structural intransigence’: Lee advisor

SEOUL, April 4 (Yonhap) — North Korea’s determination to go ahead with a planned long-range rocket launch is indicative of the new regime’s “structural intransigence” under young leader Kim Jong-un and a “self-defeating” choice, a South Korean unification policy advisor said Wednesday.

Hyun In-taek, a unification policy advisor to President Lee Myung-bak who served as Seoul’s point man on North Korea for almost three years until last October, forecast a repeat of the North’s provocations in 2009, when it last launched a long-range rocket in April then conducted its second nuclear test a month later.

Despite international condemnation, North Korea has vowed to go ahead with the launch of a long-range rocket between April 12 and 16, ostensibly to put a satellite into space orbit. South Korea, the United States and other countries have condemned the proposed launch as a disguised test of the North’s improved ballistic missile technology.

The North’s announcement also jeopardized a Feb. 29 agreement between the food-scarce nation and the U.S., in which Pyongyang would freeze its uranium enrichment program, allow U.N. inspectors back into the country and put a moratorium on nuclear and missile tests in return for 240,000 tons of food aid from Washington.

“North Korea’s long-range missile launch is a clear case to reaffirm the structural intransigence of the North Korean regime,” Hyun told an academic forum in Seoul on the North’s planned rocket launch.

“For the new Kim Jong-un regime, the forthcoming long-range missile launch will assuredly be an event just like the behavior of ‘buttoning the first button in the wrong hole,'” Hyun continued. “Eventually this event will be self-defeating behavior for North Korea.”

Many analysts have been puzzled by the North’s timing of the announcement of its rocket launch plan, just 16 days after the deal with the U.S. was unveiled. While visiting Seoul late last month for the Nuclear Security Summit, U.S. President Barack Obama said it was uncertain who was “calling the shots” in North Korea under the young leader.

Hyun, however, said the North’s moves were deliberately calculated to bolster legitimacy for the survival of its dynastic regime, casting doubts on whether North Korea seriously and sincerely intended to fulfill its agreement with the U.S.

“From North Korea’s perspective, the Feb. 29 agreement was not destined to be dead-on-arrival by accident,” Hyun said.

“It is highly likely North Korea’s decision on the missile launch was made far before the agreement. Under this circumstance, the Feb. 29 agreement seems to be the result of a highly calculated tactic by North Korea,” the former unification minister said.

The North’s latest maneuver “shows us North Korea’s foreign ministry is no more than an ‘errand runner’ of the military authority of North Korea,” Hyun said.

Together with its nuclear weapons program, the North’s missile program has long been a regional security concern.

North Korea is believed to have advanced ballistic missile technology, though it is still not clear whether it has mastered the technology to put a nuclear warhead on a missile.

“We already had the exact same situation in 2009,” Hyun said. “The whole message North Korea tries to convey through its plan for a long-range missile launch is that a nuclear warhead can be loaded onto the missile.

“By doing this, North Korea thinks the effect of their blackmail will be greater. This is part of their underlying and careful political calculation. Therefore, it is highly likely they will follow the same pattern.”

Hyun urged the international community to “respond to North Korea with determination.”

“The behavior of North Korea we perceive now indisputably damages the stability and peace of the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia. If their behavior is tolerated, we will plunge into deeper security dilemmas,” he said.

The U.S. has asked China, which keeps North Korea’s moribund economy afloat, to curb the North’s provocations, but an American defense analyst was doubtful whether Beijing would change its past practice of quietly leaning on Pyongyang this time.

Peter Brookes, a senior researcher at the Washington-based Heritage Foundation think tank, said, “We must be sober on China’s willingness to influence North Korea toward our objectives.”

“China has concerns about its place in the future security environment in Asia, including post-unification” of the Korean Peninsula, said Brookes, a former U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Affairs under the George W. Bush administration.

China has held back from joining nations criticizing North Korea whenever Pyongyang stages a provocation and wanted to keep its close ties with the communist neighbor, which is regarded as a strategic buffer to the U.S. and the West.

“North Korea has, and will, play a role in China’s security strategy, which may not advantage U.S.-ROK (South Korea) objectives,” Brookes told the forum.

Original article can be found here.

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