Rocket launched; Japan breathes again

The Aso government got its wish: North Korea launched its rocket, with the first stage said to have landed off the coast of Akita prefecture and the second said to have landed in the Pacific Ocean.

After weeks of posturing, there was no attempt to intercept the debris.

It is unclear whether North Korea successfully delivered a satellite into orbit, as it said it would.

The US, Japan, and South Korea will now go to the UN Security Council as planned, citing the launch as a violation of UNSC resolution 1718. There will be some question of whether China will join the others in condemning the launch. China and Russia expressed reluctance to declare North Korea in violation of res. 1718 because it had followed procedures — notifying the International Maritime Organization and the International Civil Aviation Organization of its impending launch — and gave indictations that it was "just" a satellite launch, even though the implications of a successful launch have obvious implications for North Korea's missile arsenal. (As an aside, I suspect that Japanese conservatives are happy with a successful launch, thinking that it will render the US as vulnerable to North Korea missile strikes as Japan, narrowing the distance between the US and Japan on North Korea.)

China always walks a fine line in its relationship with North Korea, and this case will be no different. China will likely stop short of supporting a new resolution condemning North Korea or supporting new sanctions — both Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao were cool to the urgings of Prime Minister Aso and Foreign Minister Nakasone on the sidelines of the G20 in London — but I wouldn't be surprised if Beijing used one of its own back channels with Pyongyang to express its displeasure.

Other posts by Tobias Harris:


The night that Kim let off his firework, a straw poll of TV viewers showed that 66% of respondents wanted a "stronger defense" against NK. Article 9 can now be scrapped because "the public wants it", and the pork can now start to come from a "defense" barrel rather than the traditional construction budget, which has become increasingly unpopular with even rural voters.