From The New York Times:
North Korea Reaffirms Plan to Launch Satellite
Published: March 27, 2012
SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea intends to press ahead with its plan to launch a satellite into orbit next month, according to a government statement issued Tuesday, rebuffing President Obama and other world leaders who have told the country to cancel the launching or face the loss of food aid and additional sanctions.
Korea Central News Agency, via European Pressphoto Agency
The North’s announcement came shortly after Mr. Obama and other leaders at a nuclear security summit meeting in Seoul condemned the planned launching — given the possibility that it is a cover for developing missile technology — as a provocation and violation of a United Nations Security Council resolution, as well as a waste of millions of dollars that could be used to buy food.
On Tuesday, North Korea accused the United States of being confrontational and applying “double standards” on satellite capabilities.
“We will never give up the launch of a satellite for peaceful purposes,” a spokesman for the North Korean Foreign Ministry said in a statement carried by the state news agency, K.C.N.A. The spokesman advised the Obama administration to “drop the confrontation conception” and “make a bold decision to acknowledge that we also have a right to launch satellites.”
Whether Mr. Obama was sincere when he said Monday that the United States had no hostile intent against the North will depend on “whether it applies double standards regarding our satellite launch,” the spokesman said.
Washington and its allies believe that by launching rockets — regardless of their payload — North Korea has been developing intercontinental ballistic missile technology and the know-how to equip them with nuclear warheads. After the North’s last satellite launching, in 2009, the Security Council adopted a resolution demanding that the North refrain from “any launch using ballistic missile technology.” (North Korea portrayed that effort as a success, but Western military and private experts said a review of detailed tracking data showed the missile fell into the sea.)
Washington was particularly surprised and offended because the North’s satellite plan wasannounced barely two weeks after North Korea agreed on Feb. 29 that it would place a moratorium on long-range missile tests in return for 240,000 tons of American food aid.
With its rocket plans, North Korea also unleashed an international uproar that threatened to upstage the nuclear security summit meeting over which South Korea was presiding, with nearly 60 world leaders gathered in Seoul to discuss the prevention of nuclear terrorism. Japan and South Korea warned that they might fire at the North Korean rocket if it violated their airspace.
Washington says that during the negotiations for the February deal, its officials clearly warned the North against a satellite launching, calling it a deal-breaker. The North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman said Tuesday that during those talks, its officials “consistently maintained that a moratorium on long-range missile launches does not include satellite launches for peaceful purposes.”
How the two sides could have reached a deal despite such a disagreement remains unclear.
Some analysts said the North Korean diplomats who negotiated the February deal might have been upended by hard-liners in Pyongyang who insisted on launching a satellite to celebrate the 100th birthday of the North’s founder, Kim Il-sung, on April 15.
“The problem may well be the recklessness of hard-liners who apparently are calling the shots in policy making in North Korea now,” said Chang Yong-seok, a senior researcher at the Institute for Peace and Unification Studies at Seoul National University. “It seriously damages the standing of negotiators on both sides.”
North Korea said Tuesday that the satellite launching was a “dying wish of Gen. Kim Jong-il,” the founder’s son and the country’s longtime leader, who died in December, leaving his own son, Kim Jong-un, in charge.
What appeared to be a lack of policy coordination in Pyongyang raised questions about the “diplomatic maturity” of the young Mr. Kim and how much control he can exert over policy, said Cheong Seong-chang, an analyst at Sejong Institute. (On Sunday, Mr. Obama said it was “not clear exactly who’s calling the shots” in Pyongyang.)
Still, North Korea on Tuesday challenged American negotiators to read the text of the February agreement. It called for a North Korean moratorium on “long-range missiles, not long-range missiles including satellite launches or launches using ballistic missile technology,” the spokesman said. North Korea invited observers from NASA, he said, so they could see the “peaceful nature of our satellite launch with their own eyes.”
American officials accuse North Korea of reneging on a deal struck in good faith. But longtime North Korea analysts also say that it is one of the North’s negotiating tactics to abuse loopholes in the language of an agreement to strengthen its leverage or even kill the deal.
“They have too often, frankly, been rewarded for engaging in provocative acts and bad behavior,” said Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communication for Mr. Obama. “We’re not going to go forward with assistance to the North Koreans or outreach to the North Koreans at a time when they’re engaging in these type of provocative actions.”
Mr. Rhodes called North Korea “a very oppressive, tyrannical and backward regime.”
A crucial feature of the North Korean government’s campaign to legitimize the dynastic succession and protect the vested interests of the ruling elite has been to highlight the main legacies of Kim Jong-il: the country’s nuclear weapons and long-range missile programs. The government has blamed American sanctions for food shortages and exhorted its people to be proud of being “independent” with nuclear weapons.
When Mr. Obama stood near the border between North and South Korea on Sunday and criticized the North for keeping its people in poverty while spending millions of dollars developing nuclear weapons, he challenged that basic tenet of North Korean propaganda.
A Web site run by the North Korean government, Uriminzokkiri, employing a term that essentially means “mind your own business,” advised Mr. Obama to “wash his own snotty nose first.”