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North Korean satellite / rocket launch

Pakistan has been in the news for a long time of having made a game of getting money from the US to handle its home-grown terrorist problem; after all, these are terrorists that the Pakistani state is valiantly fighting against and they need money to compensate for this. A classic case of gamesmanship whereby you get money else bad things may happen. Well, a state that has perfected this to a much higher degree is North Korea. North Korea is a failed state on any parameter. The state is a basket case economically, with large sections of its population having to face starvation on a regular basis. The state runs on the whims of the Dear Leader, Kim Jong Il, who has cultivated the image of a maverick, all the better to seem threatening to the world community.
Why does North Korea matter ? If it was located in some corner of Africa, it would not have mattered so much. Unfortunately, North Korea has one primary industry and export, that is of armaments. It exports missiles to many countries (even though these missiles are not as accurate, but they are still a threat). Further, it maintains a huge army that remains eyeball to eyeball with South Korea and US troops (and South Korea and North Korea are technically still not at peace with other even though the war between them ended more than 50 years back), and is in a position to threaten the South Korean capital, Seoul, in a matter of hours.


A couple of years back, North Korea crossed one major line by exploding a nuclear bomb, and also launched a long range rocket that crossed over Japanese airspace, drastically increasing tensions in the region. After a gap, North Korea is at it again, threatening to launch a communications satellite. Why would this matter ? Because it is believed that this launch is actually the test of a new rocket that will overfly Japanese territory. Japan has threatened that it will shoot down any debris that seems to be coming towards Japan, increasing the tension level manifold (link to article):

North Korea has completed preparations for launching what it says is “an experimental communications satellite,” the reclusive nation’s state news agency reported early Saturday. Western nations fear that North Korea plans a ballistic missile test rather than a satellite launch, but the administration’s special envoy to the Six-Party Talks, Stephen Bosworth, said it didn’t matter if the North Koreans were trying to put a satellite in space or testing a ballistic missile that could threaten Japan or the United States.
The U.S. Navy is monitoring the expected launch with at least four ships in the region around the Korean Peninsula and northern Japan, according to U.S. military officials. The ships — three destroyers and one cruiser — are capable of tracking and shooting down ballistic missiles using powerful Aegis radar systems aboard each vessel.

The situation remains tricky, akin to dealing with a neighborhood bully who has bombs that can threaten the neighborhood. Even countries such as China and Russia have not been able to exert much influence; and Japan cannot politically easily accept a North Korean rocket to overfly its territory or have debris landing inside the country.

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