North Korean Rocket Launch: NK Proves it Can Hit Western US With Long Range Missile

On Tuesday evening, an immediate detection of North Korea's long-range rocket launch was caught by U.S. and South Korean intelligence monitoring the launch. Thus far, North Korea's Central News Agency (KCNA) is claiming that the rocket launch was successful, but doubts still linger over whether the rocket completed its three stages fully and entirely successfully.

If the rocket fulfilled its intended trajectory, passing by Japan's Okinawa and the Philippines, experts say that North Korea's long-range missile capabilities could be extended to hit the Western United States. The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), or the U.S. military, has confirmed that it tracked down the North Korean rocket and has acknowledged that the missile achieved orbit. However, government officials have yet to release their claims. 

Here in Washington, D.C., the State Department gave a slow response in condemning North Korea's rocket launch — a change in pace considering past rocket launches have garnered immediate response and condemnation. South Korean intelligence is still working to see if the third stage of the long-range rocket met its intended target, but it has thus far acknowledged that the first and second stages were successful; Japan has indicated they have picked up debris from the rocket. South Korean government sources indicate that it will give an official response later Wednesday. 

In a previous article I wrote for PolicyMic, I claimed that Kim Jong-un, or largely the regime, would never admit failure on this rocket launch following the first rocket launch failure back in April. It seems I was right, but I was wrong in underestimating North Korea's nuclear technology.

This stark contrast leads me to believe that North Korea has once again put itself on the map of key issues that the Obama administration must address. North Korea has been a relatively quiet subject on the administration's agenda, but with this new rocket launch, precedent doesn't follow. North Korea has never provoked the international community by launching two rockets in a year and therefore this act signals more sanctions and yet again more Chinese economic dependence. This is more of the same news, but with less precedent. The Obama administration should actually consider more active engagement in solving the issues on the Korean Peninsula during Obama's second term. China has shown an encouraging, but similar response by urging countries to come together on six-party talks aimed to dismantle North Korea's nuclear program. 

What we now understand is that the U.S., South Korea, and China are remaining stagnant and unwilling to change in policy while North Korea has heightened its nuclear capabilities. The high expectations of foreign educated Kim Jong-un were far-fetched and the "winds of change" are likely not coming anytime soon. 

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Brian Kim

Student at American University in Washington DC. I follow US foreign policy and Northeast Asian politics.

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