On December 1, North Korea's state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) announced it would launch its new Kwangmyongsong-3 long-range missile, to put a working satellite into orbit, between the dates of December 10th and December 22nd in its latest bid to harness long-range nuclear missile technology.
But North Korea has no one fooled. In April 2012, Pyongyang broke a unilateral agreement with the United States,what is now called the "Leap Day Deal," by launching its first long-range rocket that failed shortly after launch. The Leap Day agreement would have placed a moratorium on North Korea's nuclear and long-range missile testing and allowed International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) agents into its nuclear facilities in return for 240,000 tons of food aid. This new rocket launch announcement will be a second reckoning for the Kim Jong-un regime that seeks redemption after an embarrassing failure in April.
Does it sound like North Korea has taken this course of action in the past?
It has, and its future is as predictable as ever. North Korea has launched four long-range missiles in the past two decades and has continued to manipulate the United States and South Korea with its nuclear weapons capabilities in order to leverage large amounts of humanitarian aid.
To put Pyongyang's brinksmanship into perspective, Sung-Yoon Lee of Foreign Affairs writes, "North Korea's strategy has been to lash out at its enemies when it perceives them to be weak or distracted, up the ante in the face of international condemnation (while blaming external scapegoats), and then negotiate for concessions in return for an illusory promise of peace."
North Korea's nuclear ambition, although a deterrent, isn't the only reason for continuing to advance its nuclear technology.
With the U.S. and China's leadership changes in place, South Korea's elections are set to happen on December 19th. The country will to choose between conservative Saenuri Party candidate Park Geun-hye, the daughter of former South Korean dictator Park Chung-hee who North Korea had once attempted to assasinate, and liberal Democratic United Party candidate Moon Jae-in.
North Korea has been known to provoke South Korea whenever elections take place and it is clear that North Korea dislikes Park Geun-hye because of her party's hard line policies, and favors Moon Jae-in, who supports unrestricted aid to North Korea and a softer approach to dialogue that many South Koreans fear is weak policy.
At the very least, this new announcement should be no doomsday prediction and shouldn't be a surprise. My prediction is that North Korea won't be able to pull off a long-range missile test that successfully accomplishes what the first missile couldn't. In a very short seven months, I doubt North Korea has corrected its mistakes.
For the sake of breaking the status quo on the Korean peninsula, I sincerely do hope the rocket launch fails considering it could be a second major failure for Jong-un as he continues his power struggle within the new regime.