Why did North Korea launch a rocket?
A North Korean soldier stands guard in front of the rocket days before its launch
April 12th, 2012
08:08 PM ET

Why did North Korea launch a rocket?

By Jamie Crawford

With North Korea's launch of a rocket that most see as cover for a ballistic missile test, a deal to resume food aid from the United States now dead, the loud chorus from the international community that was already condemning the act as an unnecessary provocation is only likely to grow louder in the coming days.

"They have nothing to gain and only further isolation to anticipate should they go ahead with this," Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations said on CNN's John King, USA earlier this week.

The United States and its allies had been if anything unambiguous with their thoughts on the launch. So just why did Pyongyang go ahead with the launch? There is no shortage of answers or theories to that question, but many analysts who follow the country say the regime simply does not have that much to lose, and thus need not weigh much in the way of costs versus benefits going forward.

"How much more isolated can you get?" asks James Acton of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The United Nations has sanctioned North Korea many times over for its provocative acts of the past, and the country's largest economic and political benefactor China, is unlikely to support any additional penalties at the Security Council this time.

"There may be some financial sanctions that the United States and its friends can unilaterally apply, but this is already by a long way the most isolated country on Earth," Acton said. "The truth is that our ability to inflict significant costs on North Korea is not all that large."

The timing of the launch was not coincidental, and that too played into the North Korean calculus. For years, North Korea has been planning to mark 2012 as a year in which it would show the world it has become a great and prosperous nation. In homage to the centenary of the country's founder Kim ill Sung, his son and successor Kim Jong-Il had ordered the launch of the satellite around the birthday of Kim Il Sung on April 15.

With a leadership succession to Kim Jong Un following the death of his father in December, many Korea watchers say the North could not back down from the launch because it would also serve to fracture the succession process, and expose faults and flaws in the system.

"It's become part of the national identity and nation building, it's not simply a disguised ballistic missile test," says Victor Cha, an analyst with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and author of the book "The Impossible State: North Korea, Past and Future."

For Cha, the launch is part of a national process of building a narrative and myth about the new young leader. For his grandfather Kim il Sung, the constructed narrative was that of a founding father of the 'workers paradise,' and for Kim Jong-il it was the development of a nuclear program to complement its ballistic missile technology as a means of protecting the nation from outside forces.

"They need to build a new myth for him," Cha says of Kim Jong Un. Part of that myth is "the notion of trying to reach new technological heights with indigenous technology, not relying on others. So space is the frontier they want to conquer."

There is likely a military component to the launch as well.

While the North portrays it as solely about putting a satellite in orbit to add an air of international legitimacy, the technology of launching satellites and ballistic missiles are similar, and the need to further test their military defense capabilities is needed to move forward.

"This is about developing a long range ballistic missile that is capable of hitting the United States," said Acton with Carnegie.

Before he left office, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates voiced concerns over the North's military aims. "North Korea now constitutes a direct threat to the United States," he said in an interview with Newsweek while voicing concern over possible future missile technology that would be more difficult to preemptively destroy. "They are developing a road-mobile ICBM [Intercontinental Ballistic missile]. I never would have dreamed they would go to a road-mobile before testing a static ICBM."

"North Korea needs these [static missile] tests to develop missile technology," that could lead to advancement in mobile-delivery technology Acton said.

And the legacies of Iraq and Afghanistan may also be playing into the North's thinking as well.

"It's not just politics, it's the very life of the system and at the same time it sends a strong message to the world," said Cha. As Director of Asian Affairs on the National Security Council during the George W. Bush administration, Cha said his North Korea interlocutors told them their large military buildup was largely a product of seeing that Iraq and Afghanistan lacked nuclear weapons, and would never have been attacked had they possessed them.

Continuing a campaign of military advancement is a small price to pay to avoid a future U.S. attack in the North's mind Cha says. "For them, they lose a little bit of food [aid], but in the end, its a win win for them at least in their own way of thinking."

"Its always at best educated guess work with the North Koreans," says Mike Chinoy, a senior fellow at the U.S.-China Institute at the University of Southern California, and author of the book "Meltdown: The Inside Story of the North Korean Nuclear Crisis."

Chinoy, who traveled to North Korea many times as a CNN correspondent, says there is more than just birthday celebrations and national defense capabilities at work. The North's mortal enemy and neighbor, South Korea, is a factor as well. "There is a little bit of North-South competition here," he told CNN.

For decades, South Korea has been trying to put a satellite in orbit without any success. "If the North could actually get whatever this thing is on top of their rocket into orbit, they can trumpet that as a triumph over the South."

Most analysts who follow North Korea see a familiar script being re-written with North Korean provocation being followed by global condemnation, and a period of further isolation from the international community. Satellite, ballistic missile test or both, the regime appears certain in its abilities to weather the storm once again.

Chinoy says the invitation to a large contingent of foreign media by North Korea to visit the launch site and report the launch from inside the country is a sign the new regime is very confident of its hold on power, and keep control of events. "I have been there enough to know that the slightest twinge of anxiety and the door just slams shut."

Post by:
Filed under: North Korea • Nuclear • Security Brief
soundoff (639 Responses)
  1. best delta 8 gummies

    I cannot thank you enough for the blog.Much thanks again.


    June 29, 2021 at 7:43 pm | Reply
  2. pharmacepticacom

    taldenafil https://pharmaceptica.com/

    June 28, 2021 at 4:21 pm | Reply
  3. Gerardo Dauterive

    How do I use wordpress and comicpress to create a website and publish my comic strips?


    June 28, 2021 at 3:17 am | Reply
  4. pharmacepticacom

    chloroquine malaria https://www.pharmaceptica.com/

    June 24, 2021 at 4:08 am | Reply
  5. www.pharmaceptica.com

    taldenafil https://www.pharmaceptica.com/

    June 22, 2021 at 11:12 am | Reply
  6. pharmacepticacom

    buy tadalafil powder https://pharmaceptica.com/

    June 21, 2021 at 9:11 am | Reply
  7. Willian Jenne

    I am new to blogging. How do I add a subscribe function to my site so new post will go to their email?


    June 21, 2021 at 5:09 am | Reply
  8. clupsAsd

    best online pharmacy for cialis 36 hour cialis no prescription cialis

    June 14, 2021 at 8:19 am | Reply
  9. VelmSwa

    cialis 800 cialis vs viagra germany ed. trusted medstore in cialis

    June 14, 2021 at 1:38 am | Reply
  10. reextHtf

    best place to buy generic cialis cialis coupons walgreens cialis discount prices

    June 13, 2021 at 6:42 pm | Reply
  11. reextAni

    global canadian pharmacy canada drug pharmacy reviews pharmacy schools in canada list

    June 13, 2021 at 2:39 pm | Reply
  12. reextGtv

    hcg injections canada pharmacy prescription drugs list canadian-pharmacy-24.com reviews

    June 13, 2021 at 1:07 am | Reply
  13. fipleloh

    generic cialis cipla cialis online overnight shipping free cialis samples canada

    June 13, 2021 at 1:06 am | Reply
  14. VelmSwa

    cheap cialis cialis without a perscription cialis and dapoxetine

    June 13, 2021 at 12:35 am | Reply
  15. chloroquine phosphate

    hydrochloquin quineprox kratom chloroquine hydrochoriquine

    June 12, 2021 at 11:02 am | Reply
  16. reextDev

    flying with prescription drugs canadian pharmacies viagra mexican pharmacy online

    June 10, 2021 at 1:01 am | Reply
  17. cialis generic

    tadalafil side effects buy cialis online how long does tadalafil last

    June 9, 2021 at 2:51 am | Reply
  18. reextDev

    canada pharmacy board walmart pharmacy store hours canadian pharmacy colchicine

    June 9, 2021 at 2:49 am | Reply
  19. reextHtf

    cialis for daily use side effects canadian no prescription pharmacy cialis canadian pharmacy generic cialis

    June 8, 2021 at 6:15 pm | Reply
  20. tadalafil contraindications

    sublingual tadalafil tadalafil without a doctor prescription tadalafil cvs

    June 8, 2021 at 1:20 pm | Reply
  21. fipleVed

    how long does it take for cialis to work 5mg where to buy cialis in singapore should cialis be taken with food

    June 8, 2021 at 1:01 pm | Reply
  22. reextAni

    correct rx pharmacy canadian pharmacy naples fl canadian pharmacy for pets

    June 8, 2021 at 12:44 am | Reply
  23. reextGtv

    Keflex canadian online pharmacies methadone ventolin canada pharmacy

    June 8, 2021 at 12:22 am | Reply
  24. fipleloh

    cialis price comparison no prescription shelf life cialis online cialis florida delivery

    June 7, 2021 at 5:11 pm | Reply
  25. clupsAsd

    generic cialis soft tabs 20mg buy cialis c5 cialis us pharmacy

    June 7, 2021 at 12:52 pm | Reply
  26. VelmSwa

    cialis where can i buy cialis online australia female cialis

    June 5, 2021 at 6:09 am | Reply
  27. reextHtf

    cialis nz online cialis lilly 20mg cialis 20 mg canada

    June 5, 2021 at 5:28 am | Reply
  28. clupsAsd

    cialis canada generic cialis 20mg generic cialis 20 mg online

    June 5, 2021 at 4:52 am | Reply
  29. reextAni

    canadian drug pharmacy promo code reliable rx pharmacy coupons best drugstore face wash

    June 5, 2021 at 3:43 am | Reply
  30. fipleVed

    how can i get cialis fast generic cialis available in usa do you need a prescription to buy cialis

    June 4, 2021 at 9:10 pm | Reply
  31. reextGtv

    prescription online reliable pharmacy rx osco pharmacy store locator

    June 4, 2021 at 2:05 pm | Reply
  32. fipleloh

    free samples of cialis cialis vs levitra toronto buy cialis

    June 4, 2021 at 10:40 am | Reply
  33. VelmSwa

    generic cialis dapoxetine list cialis cialis generic

    June 4, 2021 at 2:08 am | Reply
  34. reextDev

    blue sky drugs canada canadian pharmacies not requiring prescription online pharmacy in germany

    June 3, 2021 at 5:00 pm | Reply
  35. reextDev

    mexican pharmacy what to buy certified canadian international pharmacy community rx pharmacy warren mi

    June 2, 2021 at 12:40 am | Reply
  36. reextHtf

    cialis maximum effect cialis 20 mg from united kingdom can ubuy cialis on streets

    June 1, 2021 at 8:39 pm | Reply
  37. fipleVed

    shop for cialis is cialis safe cialis vision side effects

    June 1, 2021 at 8:56 am | Reply
  38. reextAni

    global pharmacy canada complaints canadian pharmacy 24 manor pharmacy store locator

    June 1, 2021 at 12:58 am | Reply
  39. reextGtv

    phentermine from canada pharmacy awc canadian pharmacy reviews on canadian pharmacy online

    June 1, 2021 at 12:13 am | Reply
  40. fipleloh

    cialis sell on internet by australia company free cialis samples online is tadalafil and cialis the same thing?

    May 31, 2021 at 4:41 pm | Reply
  41. clupsAsd

    cialis 10mg generic https://cialisjla.com/ – 365 drug cialis best ed cialis pills

    May 31, 2021 at 3:14 am | Reply
  42. VelmSwa

    brand cialis canada https://ckacialis.com/ – cialis en espanol mail order cialis

    May 30, 2021 at 1:37 pm | Reply
  43. fipleVed

    cialis online shopping https://krocialis.com/ – where to buy cialis online forum get cialis online

    May 30, 2021 at 12:01 pm | Reply
  44. fipleloh

    does cialis lose effectiveness over time https://rcialisgl.com/ – vcialis cialis20mg online

    May 30, 2021 at 11:48 am | Reply
  45. clupsAsd

    generic cialis site accept mastercard https://cialisjla.com/ – cialis canadian pharmacy no prescription cialis trial pack

    May 30, 2021 at 11:21 am | Reply
  46. reextGtv

    canadian pharmacies online legitimate botox canada pharmacy modafinil online pharmacy

    May 30, 2021 at 4:35 am | Reply
  47. reextHtf

    cialis onlilne https://cialishav.com/ – buy cialis without prescription cialis buy on line

    May 30, 2021 at 12:38 am | Reply
  48. reextAni

    canadian pharmacy 247 https://pharmacyken.com/ – platinum rx pharmacy republic rx specialty pharmacy

    May 29, 2021 at 11:30 pm | Reply
  49. VelmSwa

    generic cialis buy https://ckacialis.com/ – cialis sales canadian cialis with dapoxetine paypal

    May 29, 2021 at 8:16 am | Reply
  50. reextDev

    no prior prescription required pharmacy Nizoral verified online pharmacy

    May 29, 2021 at 5:28 am | Reply
  51. reextDev

    Claritin medical rx pharmacy Astelin

    May 27, 2021 at 8:50 pm | Reply
  52. Greryclilteta

    tadalafil without a doctor prescription https://apcalisetadalafil.com/ – tadalafil price walmart tadalafil blood pressure tadalafil daily online where to order tadalafil tablets

    May 27, 2021 at 5:00 pm | Reply
  53. apposyattance

    https://tadacipetadalafil.com/ cialis tadalafil https://tadalafilww.com/ – cialis without prescription generic cialis tadalafil

    May 27, 2021 at 8:33 am | Reply
  54. reextHtf

    cialis free trial canada https://cialishav.com/ – buying cialis cheap cialis las vegas

    May 26, 2021 at 10:35 pm | Reply
  55. fipleVed

    herbal form of cialis https://krocialis.com/ – daily cialis dose when does cialis go generic

    May 26, 2021 at 9:24 pm | Reply
  56. avana

    avana india avanafil india

    May 26, 2021 at 11:36 am | Reply
  57. reextGtv

    canadian pharmacies that sell viagra french pharmacy online store canadian pharmacy asthma inhalers

    May 26, 2021 at 10:14 am | Reply
  58. reextAni

    cheap drugs from canadian pharmacies https://pharmacyken.com/ – shopko online pharmacy ed meds online

    May 26, 2021 at 3:51 am | Reply
  59. CleplePewCred

    best price usa tadalafil tadalafil online with out prescription tadalafil online tadalafil cialis https://tadalafilol.com/

    May 26, 2021 at 2:57 am | Reply
  60. fipleloh

    is generic cialis available yet https://rcialisgl.com/ – is levitra better than cialis us cialis purchase

    May 25, 2021 at 11:15 pm | Reply
  61. spearfDrore

    https://apcalisetadalafil.com/ tadalafil liquid https://tadacipetadalafil.com/ – cialis without a prescription tadalafil price walmart

    May 25, 2021 at 10:55 pm | Reply
  62. keespamebpaxy

    https://tadacipetadalafil.com/ tadalafil generic https://tadalafilol.com/ – generic tadalafil from uk tadalafil drug

    May 25, 2021 at 3:02 pm | Reply
  63. apposyattance

    where to order tadalafil tablets https://apcalisetadalafil.com/ buy cialis pills where to order tadalafil tablets tadalafil blood pressure

    May 25, 2021 at 8:22 am | Reply
  64. Lebnreext

    aarp approved canadian online pharmacies https://xlnpharmacy.com/ drugstore beetle

    May 25, 2021 at 2:39 am | Reply
  65. combigan

    combigan combigan generic

    May 24, 2021 at 10:38 pm | Reply
  66. BbshVelm

    is viagra covered by insurance http://loxviagra.com/ – viagra uses why is viagra so expensive

    May 24, 2021 at 6:36 pm | Reply
  67. Gtnbclups

    benefits of viagra for men https://jokviagra.com/ – what is the difference between viagra and cialis amazon viagra

    May 24, 2021 at 4:24 pm | Reply
  68. CleplePewCred

    lowest price cialis generic cialis online fast shipping cialis cost https://tadalafilww.com/

    May 24, 2021 at 3:38 am | Reply
  69. cyclosporine

    Cyclomune eye drops 0.05% cyclomune 0.1% eye drops cost

    May 24, 2021 at 12:12 am | Reply
  70. Lbsofiple

    cheep cialis canada http://ucialisdas.com/ – generic cialis 20mg shop cialis

    May 23, 2021 at 7:15 pm | Reply
  71. Jebgreext

    canadian pharmacy https://pharmacylo.com/ online pharmacy discount code

    May 23, 2021 at 3:16 pm | Reply
  72. BbshVelm

    is viagra bad for you http://loxviagra.com/ purple viagra

    May 23, 2021 at 10:26 am | Reply
  73. Rebffiple

    cialis 40mg http://rcialisgl.com/ – best deals on cialis super active plus online cialis inr

    May 23, 2021 at 2:23 am | Reply
  74. Fmrfreext

    cialis dosage recommended https://cialisee.com/ – what is brand cialis cialis pills

    May 22, 2021 at 5:33 pm | Reply
  75. Anooreext

    age for taking viagra http://llviagra.com/ viagra slowakei kaufen

    May 21, 2021 at 11:37 pm | Reply
  76. Jebgreext

    Forzest http://pharmacylo.com/ drug store news

    May 21, 2021 at 9:19 pm | Reply
  77. Lbsofiple

    cialis 10mg tablets http://ucialisdas.com/ cialis .uk

    May 21, 2021 at 8:40 pm | Reply
  78. chloroquineorigin

    https://chloroquineorigin.com/ chloroquine sulfate chloroquine hcl cloroquine hydroxychloroquine sulfate corona

    May 21, 2021 at 6:06 pm | Reply
  79. Rebffiple

    cialis .uk http://rcialisgl.com/ free generic cialis pills

    May 21, 2021 at 1:21 am | Reply
  80. Lebnreext

    aarp recommended canadian pharmacies https://xlnpharmacy.com/ Malegra DXT plus

    May 20, 2021 at 6:08 pm | Reply
  81. Lebnreext

    Gyne-Lotrimin http://xlnpharmacy.com/ online drug store

    May 19, 2021 at 3:14 pm | Reply
  82. Fmrfreext

    cheap cialis canadian http://cialisee.com/ cialis store in philippines

    May 19, 2021 at 6:36 am | Reply
  83. Jebgreext

    canadian pharmacy world coupon http://pharmacylo.com/ pharmacy express

    May 18, 2021 at 8:33 am | Reply
  84. Anooreext

    mode d'action du viagra https://llviagra.com/ how does fake viagra look

    May 17, 2021 at 11:13 pm | Reply
  85. Lbsofiple

    cialis replacement http://ucialisdas.com/ – does generic cialis work buy black cialis

    May 17, 2021 at 10:22 pm | Reply
  86. Rebffiple

    cialis replacement https://rcialisgl.com/ – cialis paypal cialis payment paypal

    May 17, 2021 at 1:18 am | Reply
  87. BbshVelm

    where to buy viagra online https://loxviagra.com/ – buy viagra online where to buy viagra online

    May 16, 2021 at 1:00 pm | Reply
  88. Gtnbclups

    viagra and cialis https://jokviagra.com/ what viagra does

    May 16, 2021 at 11:10 am | Reply
  89. Jebgreext

    ed pills that work quickly canadian pharmacy king canadian government approved pharmacies

    May 16, 2021 at 9:13 am | Reply
  90. Fmrfreext

    cialis with dapoxetine online http://cialisee.com/ purchase cialis

    May 16, 2021 at 7:35 am | Reply
  91. Anooreext

    viagra 100 ohne rezept https://llviagra.com/ where to buy viagra in paris

    May 16, 2021 at 6:09 am | Reply
  92. combigan

    combigan bottle sizecombigan brimonidine use

    May 15, 2021 at 11:24 pm | Reply
  93. Lbsofiple

    generic cialis tadalafil http://ucialisdas.com/ – cialis 20 mg for sale buy original cialis 10 mg

    May 15, 2021 at 8:49 pm | Reply
  94. stornobrzinol

    Very interesting info !Perfect just what I was searching for! "He who spares the wicked injures the good." by Seneca.


    May 15, 2021 at 6:25 pm | Reply
  95. Lebnreext

    Desyrel https://xlnpharmacy.com/ buy viagra pharmacy 100mg

    May 15, 2021 at 11:29 am | Reply
  96. Rebffiple

    cialis no prescription http://rcialisgl.com/ buy cialis no prescription

    May 14, 2021 at 9:47 pm | Reply
  97. BbshVelm

    how does female viagra work http://loxviagra.com/ 200mg viagra

    May 14, 2021 at 2:52 pm | Reply
  98. Lebnreext

    cialis daily http://xlnpharmacy.com/ Levaquin

    May 14, 2021 at 1:26 am | Reply
  99. Jebgreext

    medical mall pharmacy http://pharmacylo.com/ best value pharmacy

    May 12, 2021 at 12:59 pm | Reply
  100. Fmrfreext

    cialis paypale http://cialisee.com/ best prices cialis

    May 12, 2021 at 7:20 am | Reply
1 2 3 4 5 6

Leave a Reply to plaquenil uses


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.