After weeks of threats and posturing, the world watched North Korea launch a rocket from a missile base last night. It was a failure. The rocket broke apart shortly after liftoff and the remnants were never a threat to other countries. Margaret Kosal, assistant professor in the School of International Affairs, explains the significance of the failed launch and what will likely happen next.
The failed test shows two things: the desperation of the regime to make an international show of power and the failure of North Korea to demonstrate desired offensive capabilities. The failure of this test was worse than the last purported space launch, which ended on the ocean floor. It suggests that the technical capacity of the regime is static or in decline. The effort likely was rushed.
At the same time, the failed test shows that the North Koreans do not have the capability to launch a nuclear warhead, even on a short-range missile. It’s likely that North Korea will try to escalate its show of force through posturing and a third nuclear test is very possible. The 2006 and 2009 underground nuclear tests demonstrated that North Korea has capability for a crude nuclear device. They do not have a missile-based delivery vehicle.
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