North Korea is moving forward with its plans to launch a satellite between April 12 to April 16 in order to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of the country's founding leader.
South Korea and Japan have stated publicly that they will shoot down the rocket or parts of it if it enters their respective airspaces. However, the fact that the rocket is based on the Unha-3 carrier rocket, also used for the Taepodong-2 long-range ballistic missiles, means that it has the capability to reach the United States. Should America be worried?
While the country has the capacity to neutralize the threat, the fact that the American mainland falls in the range remains a significant security risk. (Taeopodong-2 has a radius of action of 10,000kms)
President Obama urged Pyongyang to call off the launch, with little effect, and responded by suspending food aid to the impoverished country. Thus far, North Korea says the launch will proceed as planned.
The satellite launch will also be a missile test, because fundamentally the launch technology is the same.
North Korea is a country of negligible consequence in the world, and for the regime’s survival in Pyongyang, it would be against its interest to launch a deliberate attack on the United States in the region or on the mainland. Beijing would likely distance itself from its dependent ‘ally’ to preserve the far more important relations with America and most fundamentally, it would be an act of war on behalf of the North with consequences that might destabilize the entire peninsula. At the end of the day, North Korea cannot afford to lose Chinese support.
For this reason, the launch has primarily political aims of keeping North Korea high on America’s diplomatic daily agenda. Washington definitely has to take the launch seriously for the sake of its regional allies in Asia, but must show restraint and not bow to what might potentially be panicked pressure from Japan, South Korea, or Taiwan to what is little more than a political stunt by Pyongyang.