President Obama's admonition against firing a long-range rocket
next month went unheeded by North Korea, which argued it is for
economic development. Will China and Russia have any sway?
President Obama's warnings of dire "consequences" if North Korea
fires a long-range rocket next month encountered a quick and firm
rebuff today from Pyongyang that underscored the North's
determination to keep up its nuclear and missile programs in the
face of widespread international condemnation.
As Obama flew home tonight after three days of intense talking
about a range of nuclear issues at a conference of leaders of more
than 50 countries, the sense among analysts here was that he had
made little if any headway in tamping down North Korea's nuclear
A North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman, in a lengthy defense
of the North's insistence on going through with the plan to fire the
rocket, stressed that the reason is to put a satellite into orbit.
North Korea "will not give up the satellite launch for peaceful
purposes," the spokesman was quoted as saying. The launch was "a
legitimate right of a sovereign state" and was "essential for
The emphasis on "economic development" appeared as a rebuff not
only of President Obama but also of China's President Hu Jintao and
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. Both of them, in talks with Obama
on the sidelines of the two-day nuclear security summit, expressed
concern about North Korea's insistence on firing the rocket. They
clearly did not have a rocket launch in mind when they urged the
North to focus on economic development.
The global leaders agreed, after final sessions of the summit, on
a declaration against all forms of nuclear terrorism that said not a
word about the issues on the minds of all of them - the nuclear
programs of North Korea and Iran.
"China is certainly talking politely," says Han Sung-joo, a
former foreign minister and ambassador to Washington, "but I don't
think China will actually do that" - that is, risk upsetting the
North Koreans by withholding some of the fuel and with which it
keeps its North Korean protectorate alive.
Instead, Mr. Han predicts, "China will try to persuade South
Korea to make it to six-party talks" on North Korea's nuclear
program. The talks, hosted by China, including the United States,
Japan, Russia, and the two Koreas, were last held in Beijing in
December 2008 - and are still regarded as essential in bringing
about rapprochement on the Korean peninsula.
Sense that North will get away with launch
The irony is the abiding sense that North Korea can get away with
firing the rocket, despite all protests, on the calculated gamble
that all rhetoric will fail to gain significant traction in the run-
up to the US presidential election in November and South Korea's
election in November.
"North Korea has given a kind of dilemma to both the US and South
Korea in that they will go ahead with the rocket launch," Han
The problem is how literally to view what people are calling "the
leap year agreement" in which US envoy Glyn Davies and North Korean
envoy Kim Kye-gwan, meeting in Beijing, came to three conclusions. …