North Korean dynamics remain charged despite rocket fizzer

Daniel Flitton April 13, 2012

THE apparent fizzer of the North Korean rocket launch does not change the dynamics of the regime defying international opinion.

Nor does a failure signal an end to the nuclear ambitions of the reclusive regime. Tests - even ones that go awry - are meant as learning exercises. There were plenty of failures in the missile development by other countries too.

Besides, in the tightly-controlled North Korean media, the rocket will be seen to be a fantastic success and that is ultimately the main audience for the regime.

The launch has already led a White House official to tell the New York Times the United States would suspend its February 29 deal to supply food aid to North Korea.

The regime could claim this is a breach of faith, maintaining the rocket launch was only intended as a peaceful space program and was not covered by the moratorium on launching long-range missiles.

So in the tit-for-tat game of defiance, the US will now be watching closely for another nuclear test.

A South Korean paper last week reported satellite images of the digging of a new underground tunnel at the site of the two earlier nuclear explosions in October 2006 and May 2009.

The regime may not have perfected a delivery vehicle for its weapon but the intention is still plain.

The most important reaction to watch is the well-covered outrage from Washington — or Canberra for that matter. And the key question is what Beijing does now.

China is critical to the regime's survival. The oil and grain that keeps the North Korean economy sputtering along all comes from across the border, as does the access to banking and luxuries for the regime elite.

China reportedly expressed its opposition to the so-called satellite launch but it was only a mild rebuke.

Serious Chinese criticism is really the only way to expect any change of behaviour by North Korea. And that has not come so far.

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