North Korea space launch throws food deal off course
March 16th, 2012
02:13 PM ET

North Korea space launch throws food deal off course

By Elise Labott

Senior U.S. officials are trying to figure out where to go after North Korea's announcement that it would undertake a satellite launch using ballistic missile technology, senior White House officials said.

The announcement took the Obama administration, as well as the other countries involved in the six-party talks, by surprise and raised serious questions about whether the new Korean leader is any different from his father.

The launch announcement throws off-course the recently announced deal to exchange food aid for a halt in the North Koreans program, and the U.S. will be taking a "pause," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.

"If they were to go forward with this launch, it would be hard to imagine how we would be able to move forward with a regime whose word we have no confidence in and who has egregiously violated its international commitments," Nuland added.

During talks between the nations in Beijing, U.S. officials said North Korea was explicitly warned against the use of space technology.

"They knew if they were to launch a satellite, this would be a matter of grave concern to the U.S.," one senior official said.

The North Koreans notified the U.S. about their intention but did not make clear that they were going to make an announcement to the world, which makes it more difficult to deal with, the officials said.

North Korea told the U.S. that it has the right to peaceful access to space, as do all other nations, one senior official said. The official said the U.S. replied that all other nations have not been judged to be a threat to international peace and stability and been enjoined explicitly against conducting ballistic missile launches.

"This is not about their ‘rights’; it's about their obligations as a member of the U.N.," the North Koreans were told, according to the official.

"It's the use of the missile technology that is an explicit violation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1874, so it's a matter of semantics, whether you call it," Nuland said. "They say they're launching a satellite; we say ‘you're launching it with ballistic missile technology, which the U.N. Security Council Resolutions have explicitly precluded.’"

Ri Yong Ho, a senior North Korean nuclear envoy, traveled to Beijing and Moscow this week after attending a conference in New York sponsored by Syracuse University. The officials said he raised eyebrows in both countries by suggesting that North Korea would undertake the launch.

There are numerous theories on Korea’s motivation: Was this late leader Kim Jong Il's last wish? Is it something officials came up with after Kim's death to mark his greatness? Is it the regime simply marking former leader Kim Il Sung's 100th anniversary with something flashy?

The U.S. has been huddling with the Japanese, Russians and South Koreans since the announcement. All have issued tough statements warning against such a launch. U.S. officials have also spoken with Chinese officials but are awaiting an announcement from Beijing.

In terms of consequences, it is unclear whether the announcement nixes the deal with the U.S. or whether anything can be salvaged. However, look for Washington to continue to point to the 2006 and 2009 Security Council resolutions. It’s unclear whether the U.S. would go back to the U.N. if North Korea follows through the launch, but officials wouldn't rule it out.

Filed under: Asia • China • Clinton • Japan • Kim Jong Il • Kim Jong-un • North Korea • Russia • Six-Party Talks • South Korea • State Department
soundoff (38 Responses)
  1. Cristopher Culp

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    January 28, 2021 at 10:10 pm | Reply
  2. rafaela

    I feel that, instead of senidng physical radios which can undoubtedly be identified by North Korean officials, send information on how to fix their already-approved radios. I'm not knowledgable about the availability of soldering irons or electronic components, but I'm sure that if people outside the DPRK were able to figure out just what modifications were made to N.K.'s radios, it shouldn't be too hard to reverse or re-mod.If they've been senidng baloons with radios within, they should instead send schematics and instructions on how to mod their radios to receive outside transmissions. This way the knowledge of happenings in the outside world doesn't disappear with a physical object.

    May 21, 2012 at 8:13 am | Reply
  3. ntm91307

    Has anyone really LOOKED at the picture at the top of the article? Every one of these people, except the Kim kid, looks to be in their mid-trillions. How many of you really believe this child is really in charge? Me thinks we'll be dealing with this "old guard" for quite awhile yet. Which means this latest move should come as no surprise to anyone.

    My 2 cents...

    March 19, 2012 at 2:54 pm | Reply
  4. Robert

    Take our money and food away on launch day, they have made their choice. Honor means nothing to a swine that would happily starve his own people. Those comments in veils for the GOP booty bitches mentioning USA govmt doimg...... Move to South Kora, or Cubs, take ALL of your family too.

    March 19, 2012 at 2:42 pm | Reply
  5. James

    I understand that this country wants to advance themselves technologically, but given their past leader Kim Jong, i think there is not much trust in someone that came from the same bloodline. I don't believe anyone in world should have nuclear weapons. Period. Let's clear the slate and wipe out all the nukes, then the UN could deny a country the right to have nuclear arms with a clear conscience.

    March 19, 2012 at 1:25 pm | Reply
  6. Larch

    I don't know what everyone is so worried about, the world got along fine for thousands of years without out the USA's help. If other country's want to be strong and independent, it's not are place to stand in there way. We should start bringing all our troops home and closing all of our overseas bases. The world would stop seeing us as a threat and start liking us again. The money we save could start to pay down our national debt. We could rebuild our infrastructure, protect our water and food supplies, educate our child to embrace green life styles and build massive underground shelters to protect our population and our military from the fallout from all our new friends’ nucking each other.

    March 19, 2012 at 12:42 pm | Reply
  7. Don't H8 Like a Racist

    Why are racist hating on NoK? What is this... only western approved countries can launch satelites? And for all the rest of the idiots, the famine occured in the 1990s, let it go! A famine is not a yearly event unless if you live in a desert! The white gads like to feel superior so they give aid to make it seem that they are in control of lesser people. Can't you see that your hate is showing when you go out in public and chant about denying aid to a country that doesn't seem to want to play the victimization game?

    March 17, 2012 at 2:25 pm | Reply
    • Capt. Obvious

      Only nations that aren't making it a point to try to provoke war should be allowed to have satelittes. It's not that we think that they should have no access, they just want to literally hang missiles over our heads. Don't forget that this is a country that almost kick started the Korean war again over a military exercise

      March 17, 2012 at 2:32 pm | Reply
      • Don't H8 Like a Racist

        You don't want to go there. You see, when NoK conducts a military exercise we call them mad, lunatics, thugs and warmongers. When we travel thousands of miles to play around their neighborhood, we call ourselves freedom lovers. When we introduce the first tactical nuclear weapons in the Koreas, we puff out our chest and boast about our military superiority. But when the NoKs response in kind, we call them the "axis of evil." That's like saying that the only good Indian is a dead Indian. It's sounds and feels like racist imposition. If you don't believe me, ask yourself this question, how many wars have our so-called enemies started in the past 10 years? Okay, How Many Have We Started in The Same Time Scale? Be honest... it is too heavy-handed.

        March 17, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • Sam

      They generally can't find meat to eat, except on special occasions. 1/3 of the children are malnourished. Average person consumes 1400 calories a day. That, my friend, is a nation in need of help. And it's their own fault because they have the resources, they just spend their money on ballistic missiles instead. THAT'S why we "H8" on North Korea. It has nothing to do with race.

      March 18, 2012 at 11:50 pm | Reply
    • Nikkoli

      You say that we are being racist, yet you make statements saying that white people like to feel superior. And i agree with the fact that nuclear weapons are bullsh*t and should not be used, but remember it takes everyones cooperation to get rid of them and north korea doesnt want to get rid of them. As for the actual topic, nasa uses actual launch vehicles to put satallites in orbit, not an icbm.

      March 19, 2012 at 10:28 am | Reply
    • DSBsky

      Seriously? Are you really that dumb? You could not be more ignorant about golbal politics if you think this way. Do you have any idea what they have done in the past? If you did, you wouldn't of said something so stupid..

      March 19, 2012 at 12:04 pm | Reply
  8. 4commonsensenow

    I guess thats like giving money to homeless guy for food and then you see him walking outta the liquor store with a bottle 20 minutes later.smh

    March 17, 2012 at 1:52 pm | Reply
  9. Lizzie

    I guess that's what liberals want for this country, by everyone being equally poor. Being a nanny state works great for Korea, China, Cuba, Venezuela. Only those in power get to eat.

    March 17, 2012 at 12:45 pm | Reply
  10. dreamer96

    China sell missiles to Iran...
    North Korea has advanced ballistic missiles..
    North Korea plans to use advanced ballistic missile to launch satellite...
    China has sold advance ballistic missiles to Iran...
    China has sold anti-ship missiles to Syria, Iran, Pakistan
    Russia plans to sell advanced ballistic missiles to defend against NATO
    Iran and North Korea and Nuky weapons...
    China expanding Chinese Navy...
    Anybody see a pattern here??

    China, Russia, Syria, Iran, and North Korea must have a Tea Party too....

    March 17, 2012 at 10:28 am | Reply
    • Lizzie

      So why did Pres.Obama bow to Russia and is removing the missile defense from Europe.

      March 17, 2012 at 12:40 pm | Reply
      • Capt. Obvious

        He's not, he offered them a stake in it and they turned it down saying that they would only agree to it if they could have the codes to render it ineffective. As if they wouldn't just turn around and sell it off. Turkey already has a good portion of the radar set up.

        March 17, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
    • American Teenager

      China's trying to be like us, a little advice, bet on the winners not the losers. Look at Russia, their epuipment didn't help Iraq much did it? As if any of the countries would know how to effectively utilize that equipment without getting it destroyed.

      March 18, 2012 at 8:13 pm | Reply
  11. W.G.

    OOOps ! gues N. Korea will have to go back to cannabaliism .

    March 17, 2012 at 9:51 am | Reply
  12. Mike500

    So North Korea fooled the Obama Administration; why am I not surprised?

    March 17, 2012 at 9:22 am | Reply
    • Yikes

      Congrats on winning the dumbest post of the day.

      March 19, 2012 at 7:52 am | Reply
  13. Fred Flintstone

    Why should we care if North Korea is going into space? Our own Dear Leader has decided that America will no longer be a manned, and recently even an unmanned space fairing nation. Somebody on the planet MUST continue pushing into space. Who are we to tell anyone what they can or cannot do? I thought Obama was going to change all of that bossy American attitude and everyone was going to Love us. What happened?
    Now if your talking about ICBM's, that's sort of a different story, but not really. Billy Clinton, another enlightened Democrat President sold the targeting technology for ICBMs to the ChiComs for campaign cash back in the 90's. He did using the pretext of trying to help them launch peaceful "satellites". Now those satellites are tooling around hundreds of feet underwater in the Pacific aboard SSBNs, and are target right at our cities. So what's the problem here? Don't Democrats want other countries to be strong so that they can keep America in her proper place? At least, that's what both Obama and his angry wife, Clinton and his angry wife, Secretary of State Albright, and hundreds of other Democrats have said.
    So no problemo. Hopeychange is HERE.

    March 17, 2012 at 5:24 am | Reply
    • Flint stone is a moron

      Its just Dems, your so stupid it's not even worth mentioning it goes back to Reagan. Stop inbreeding and go back to school.

      March 17, 2012 at 7:43 am | Reply
    • SuperDuper

      The reason were concerned about N. Korea sending a satillite in to space(rocket guided) is because the whole satillite thing is a cover up from what the true intensions are and thats creating long range missles. At least that is what the US believes...a N.Korea with long range missles is extremely dangerous.

      March 17, 2012 at 11:04 am | Reply
  14. mick

    give these fuckers nothing.they cant be trusted and they dont deserve shit.they are fucking scum who starve their own you think the people will get the aid donated?not a chance.why dont we all get together and fuck these assholes off for good along with the rest of the scum running around this probably only have to top 200 people.

    March 16, 2012 at 9:16 pm | Reply
  15. radgast

    did they get their food aid?

    March 16, 2012 at 8:23 pm | Reply
    • Fred Flintstone

      Is that anything like an "EBT Card"? If we withhold "EBT Cards" in America, will the former recipients build rockets and go into space?

      March 17, 2012 at 5:27 am | Reply
      • Flint stone is a moron

        Still a moron flintstone....

        March 17, 2012 at 7:44 am |
  16. bangalore

    Played Obozo and Hillary like a fools tom-tom. Garf a hairball if we ain't in a world of hurt with these two leading our dipolmacy efforts!

    March 16, 2012 at 7:13 pm | Reply
    • joep199

      Oh, I get your point. We should never negotiate with anyone, even when the cost and risk is minimal, while the potential benefit is significant. That makes a lot of sense, if you have a pointy little head.

      March 16, 2012 at 9:55 pm | Reply
    • ?

      "Garf a hairball?"

      March 17, 2012 at 12:33 am | Reply
  17. fool stamp or food stamp

    this is north korea , what else would anyone expect ? i said this was a joke two weeks ago , that there would not be an agreement that would be honored.

    more obama wisdom . please see nations under certain leadership for what they are. a little discernment will go a long way. this is an ICBM test coming up by north korea.

    March 16, 2012 at 5:47 pm | Reply
  18. Portland tony

    Good lord, North Korea is so far behind the rest of the world in space technology, just getting something in space is a breakthrough for them. You can only push a varmint so far into a corner, then it will attack and bite you knowing his death is certain. Let them eat!

    March 16, 2012 at 3:22 pm | Reply
    • Greg

      I don't know if it's a fair statement to say they are behind the rest of the world. Most nations probably couldn't pull of a space launch. They are probably behind most developed nations, but they are operating with the distinct handicap of being isolated. Personally I don't see the problem with them re-purposing their ballistic missile technology. It sounds like nothing but semantics to me. If they call the missile a rocket would it be okay? My problem is more with taking on an expensive endeavor like a space launch while you are trying to get assistance with feeding your citizens. It sounds like the international equivalent of buying a Cadillac while you are collecting food stamps.

      March 16, 2012 at 5:56 pm | Reply
      • Portland tony

        Agreed. This launch is probably a more face saving event than a true grasp for technology! "Honor" is very important to cultures in that area.

        March 16, 2012 at 7:06 pm |
      • Brown

        If you’re going to discuss cost, look at what the American government is spending on the NSA to record every data stream phone conversation and text message in the entire world. With a what, 1.7 trillion dollar debt? the nations people cannot afford it, and most of the money is interest drawn from indebted citizens who are going to have a tough time finding work as machines continue to get simplified and incomes go down. I think if American government continues to restrict freedoms in this nation and abroad, it is going to eventually reach a climax. If the government policy is to limit other countries war capabilities while building and maintaining their own, they will eventually fail, and being feared, will be reduced to rubble by other nations who simply desire to protect themselves from the warring nation that has too much power and wealth. It is better to build friendships and find a way to reduce war building, instead of creating divisions and friendships that are based on might and fear. Without the freedom to pursue technology, anyone restricted in any nation, will find a way to pursue it anyway. And regardless of American spy potential, for every tech, there is anti tech. I think American government arrogance is the greatest threat to us citizens in this nation.

        March 17, 2012 at 5:13 pm |

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