World leaders have failed to agree on a joint response to North Korea’s rocket launch on Sunday. Japan had called for an emergency session of the United Nations Security Council claiming its security was threatened by Pyongyang’s actions, but no agreement on international action was forthcoming. The United States and Japan say they’ll continue to press for a new resolution condemning the Kim Jong-il regime.
South Koreans watching a TV news program on the North Korean rocket launch at a train station in Seoul on April 5, 2009.
"The resolution 1718 is very clear that any activity related to a ballistic missile programme must be abandoned", Japan’s UN Ambassador, Yukio Takasu, told reporters after the closing of an emergency session of the UN Security Council. Japan requested the meeting just hours after North Korea’s rocket passed over its territory.
But according to reports, the members could not reach a consensus on whether the rocket, which Pyongyang claims was carrying an experimental communications satellite, violated previous UN resolutions.
Japan, South Korea and the United States maintain that whatever it was North Korea was trying to launch uses the same technology needed to fire long-range missiles.
Back in Tokyo, Japan’s Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone says his nation is not stopping here. The foreign minister said that the members of the Security Council were concerned about North Korea’s actions. He pledged that Japan would continue to push for a UN resolution. But some analysts say that these nations are being hypocritical.
Mark Caprio who lectures on Korean Studies at Tokyo’s Rikkyo University, asks: "Why are Japan, the United States and South Korea criticizing North Korea for something they all do?" Caprio says that if history serves as any guide, the rocket launch could restart the stalled six party talks, as happened in 2006 after North Korea tested a nuclear device. "If North Korea is using this to gain a foothold into engagement, it's worked very successfully for them in the past."
Fallout for Japan elections
North Korea’s rocket launch could also affect upcoming parliamentary elections in Japan. For many Japanese, North Korea is the bogeyman of East Asia. Aside from its nuclear and long-range missile tests, there’s a constant reminder in media here about Pyongyang sponsored abductions of Japanese citizens that Tokyo says are still unresolved.
Jeff Kingston, lecturer on Asian Studies at Temple University in Tokyo, says that the fall-out from this rocket launch could benefit Prime Minister Taro Aso and his unpopular ruling party. "I think that this generally benefits the ruling party, it's seen to be the party that’s more steady: one that’s used to exercising power, and I think in times of crisis whether it's economic crisis or security crisis, it generally helps the government in power."
Conflicting claims on satellite
But North Korea’s ability to strike distant targets with its missiles is still in question. Monitors at the United States Northern Command say the launch was a failure, for the rocket as well as its payload crashed into the Pacific Ocean after passing over Japan.
However officially the North Korean media are singing a very different tune. In defiance of Western media reports, the Korean Central News Agency reported not long after takeoff that their country's satellite was in orbit and had begun broadcasting back patriotic songs honoring leader Kim Jong-il back to earth.