Last Wednesday, Dec. 12, North Korea successfully launched a long-range rocket test, defying international sanctions and surprising American officials who believed the Korean space agency had suffered a significant technical setback. The rocket entered orbit and appeared to reach as far as the Philippines, according to articles published in The New York Times and Al Jazeera last Tuesday night.
According to the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), the missile was not a threat to North America at any time during its flight.
The New York Times further asserted that this rocket’s success brings North Korea closer to developing an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile, although it is still far from being capable of deploying nuclear missiles.
North Korean officials claim that the purpose of the launch was merely to place a weather satellite in orbit.
For Victor Cha, a scholar at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, the launch carries more symbolic than practical meaning, saying to The New York Times, “It’s not as if the U.S. can describe them anymore as a bunch of crazies who could never get anywhere with their technology. And it ends the argument that Kim Jong-un might be a young, progressive reformer who is determined to take the country in a new direction.”
Former Australian Ambassador to South Korea Richard Broinowski takes a different view in the Al Jazeera article. “There’s a certain double standard here: when North Korea does this, it’s obviously according to the United States, a missile test, but when South Korea or Japan launches their own missiles to put satellites in orbit, it is regarded as a peaceful demonstration of their technology.”
On Wednesday, The UN Security Council will have held an emergency meeting to consider issuing further sanctions.