Just moments ago, a beaming North Korean state-run TV announcer proclaimed a successful rocket launch on their noon show (10pm EST). They’re claiming to have successfully launched a satellite into orbit. South Korea’s Defense Ministry confirmed Pyongyang’s first and second stages of its rocket were split successfully. Key capitols are assessing the situation.
We can expect Seoul, Tokyo, and Washington to react sternly although Washington hasn’t released a statement yet. We can also expect the UN Security Council to convene Wednesday at around 11a.m. and discuss passing a resolution (i.e. sanctions) or another president’s statement. After North Korea’s April launch, the UN Security Council President’s statement included a “trigger” clause – this laid the foundation for a swift sanctions resolution for future missile launches and nuclear tests. For more, see my analysis in Arms Control Today after Pyongyang’s April rocket launch.
If this test was successful, it has grave security implications. Pyongyang claims it’s a rocket for peaceful scientific purposes while the world sees it as a veiled attempt to mate a nuclear warhead onto an inter-continental ballistic missile that could hit the U.S. homeland.
The latest launch comes days before the South Korea’s December 19th presidential elections and it’s unclear whether it would affect votes. Until now, both conservative and liberal presidential candidates had expressed willingness to engage Pyongyang. The launch also comes against the backdrop of the North’s “mighty and prosperous nation” year, and just days before the death of Kim Jong-il on December 17, 2011.
U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement: “North Korea has once again defied the United Nations, its Six-Party partners, and the world by launching a long-range rocket under the guise of a so-called ‘satellite test.'”
Stay tuned for more.