The year 2012 ended on a high note for the people of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), when this small socialist nation, which is subject to crippling embargoes by US imperialism and other reactionary forces, became the tenth nation to succeed in independently launching a space satellite. Just the previous month, capitalist south Korea, held up as a supposed miracle of development by the bourgeoisie worldwide, had to suspend its own third attempt at a satellite launch.
In a 12 December dispatch, the Korean Central News agency (KCNA) reported:
“Scientists and technicians of the DPRK successfully launched the second version of satellite Kwangmyongsong-3 into its orbit by carrier rocket Unha-3, true to the last instructions of leader Kim Jong Il…
“The successful launch of the satellite is a proud fruition of the Workers’ Party of Korea’s policy of attaching importance to science and technology. It is also a great event in developing the country’s science, technology and economy by fully exercising the independent right to use space for peaceful purposes.” (‘KCNA Releases Report on Satellite Launch’)
The imperialist powers and their compliant monopolist media, which like to oscillate between sneering at the DPRK for its supposed backwardness and poverty whilst simultaneously presenting it as a dire and existential threat, were taken aback by the success of the launch, which they were forced to reluctantly concede.
The New York Times quoted Riki Ellison of the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance, a Washington DC-based group of hawkish cold warriors, describing the satellite launch as a “fundamental breakthrough” and a “resounding achievement”. Ellison’s apparently out of character praise for Pyongyang naturally served the malign intention of seeking to ratchet up imperialist hostility, as he went on to note that the remaining steps that the DPRK would need to take to develop intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) were “much easier” than the satellite launch.
The newspaper further quoted Harvard astronomer Jonathan McDowell, who tracks global rocket launchings and space activity, who said the satellite “ was orbiting a little higher than the International Space Station, reaching about 360 miles. He called the orbit’s accuracy ‘pretty good’ for a first launching .” (‘After rocket launching, a call for new sanctions’, 12 December 2012)
The Financial Times put matters more pointedly, if grudgingly and churlishly:
“US President Barack Obama delivered a withering put-down on North Korea’s long-range rocket ambitions after a failed launch in April, saying that its engineers ‘don’t seem real good’ at ballistic missile technology.
“Following Pyongyang’s apparently successful satellite launch on Wednesday, the US president can no longer dismiss its rocket programme quite so easily.
“By seemingly putting a satellite into space before South Korea, its much richer and more developed neighbour, Kim Jong Un, North Korea’s 29-year-old ruler, has scored a big domestic propaganda coup to round off his first year in office.” (‘N Korea pulls off coup with rocket launch’ 12 December 2012)
Using the words “apparently” and “seemingly” to refer to a universally acknowledged fact fails to detract from the appropriately withering jibe at Obama’s imperial hubris.
Stung by this fresh evidence of what even a small, beleaguered nation can achieve when it adheres to the road of a socialist planned economy, the United States, Japan, south Korea, Britain and other reactionary powers immediately began a campaign to impose further sanctions on the DPRK, preferably using the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) as their instrument.
Britain’s ambassador to the UN, Mark Lyall Grant, told Reuters: “In our view [the security council] should react, it should react quickly, and it should react strongly to this provocation.”
Mr Lyall Grant’s wish was not granted. After closed consultations on 12 December, the Security Council confined itself to a brief statement, claiming that the DPRK’s actions violated its resolutions passed in 2006 and 2009, after the DPRK had successfully conducted nuclear tests, which seek to impose a ban on the DPRK conducting “any launch using ballistic missile technology”.
“Members of the Security Council will continue consultation on an appropriate response given the urgency of the matter,” the UNSC statement continued. Yet evidently, some members of the UNSC, notably China, do not share the imperialists’ view of the supposed urgency of the matter, as there has been no follow up by that body with the passage of weeks up to the time that we went to press.
Whilst expressing what he termed “regret” at the DPRK’s satellite launch, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei declined to criticise it directly, instead noting that “the DPRK is entitled to the peaceful use of outer space”. According to a Xinhua report:
“Hong said the DPRK’s satellite launch has highlighted the significance and urgency of resuming the six-party talks, which are aimed at realising the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula.
“‘We hope all sides concerned will make concerted efforts to resume and advance the six-party talks process,’ he added.
“In response to a question on possible sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council, Hong said the Chinese side holds that the Security Council’s response should be ‘prudent and moderate’ and conducive to maintaining the overall peace and stability of the peninsula instead of escalating tensions there.” (‘China maintains contact with relevant parties on DPRK satellite launch: FM’, 13 December 2012)
It should be noted that, for a considerable time now, it has been the United States, Japan and south Korea that have refused to resume the six-party talks, despite repeated calls by China, Russia and the DPRK.
In this situation, the United States’ strategy is to attempt to bully and pressure China into agreeing to further sanctions against its Korean socialist ally, against both its national interests and better judgement, by threatening an alternative unilateral response by the United States that would directly target China under the pretext of targeting the DPRK.
The New York Times clearly set out this gangster logic:
“The United States and its Asian allies began an effort on Wednesday to impose additional sanctions on North Korea after its largely (whatever that means – Ed.) successful rocket launching, but this time Washington added a warning to China: Failure to rein in Kim Jong Un, the North’s new leader, will result in an even greater American military presence in the Pacific…
“The essence of the American strategy, as described Wednesday by administration officials, was to force the Chinese into an uncomfortable choice.
“‘ The kinds of things we would do to enhance the region’s security against a North Korean nuclear missile capability,’ one senior administration official said in an interview, ‘are indistinguishable from the things the Chinese would view as a containment strategy’ aimed at Beijing .
“ They would include increased patrols in waters the Chinese are trying to claim as part of their exclusive zone, along with military exercises with allies in the regi on. “‘It’s the right approach, but whether it works is another matter,’ said Christopher R. Hill, who was the chief negotiator with North Korea during President George W Bush’s second term, and is now dean of the Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver, on Wednesday . ‘The approach of thickening up the anti-missile effort is something that would get China’s attention.’”
There is, however, a fatal flaw in this US strategy, which the New York Times itself refers to, albeit without elaboration, but rather almost in passing:
“Many of those efforts are planned anyway as part of President Obama’s ‘rebalancing’ strategy to ensure a continued American presence in Asia. The president has repeatedly said he has neither the desire nor the ability to contain China’s rise (the reference to ability is more pertinent than that to desire – Ed.), but the rebalancing is clearly intended to keep the Chinese from nudging the United States out of the region.
“Already, the Chinese believe that America’s anti-missile efforts from Alaska to the Pacific are designed to counter their own nuclear arsenal.” (New York Times, op cit)
In other words, the problem for the imperialist mafia here is that, by threatening to do something you are doing anyway in order to make your adversary act against their own interests would seem to be almost a textbook example of making an offer you can refuse.
Doubtless through gritted teeth, the Financial Times explained to its readers that sanctions, in any case, are of little use in preventing the DPRK from meeting its strategic objectives and that, far from opening up the DPRK to further crippling punishment, the satellite launch may in fact also serve to push the USA towards the negotiating table, which has long been the DPRK’s goal:
“ But existing sanctions – including an arms embargo and restrictions on financial transactions – have failed to halt North Korea’s advances in missile technology and they will do little to stop it developing functioning nuclear warheads, argues Andrei Lankov, a professor at Kookmin university in Seoul .
“‘Sanctions have never worked in dealing with North Korea and they never will,’ he says…
“ Some analysts believe that the growing, if still distant, nuclear threat from North Korea may force the US to revive talks with Pyongyang, despite concerns about rewarding it for ‘bad behaviour ’.
“ Relations nosedived in April when North Korea launched a rocket less than two months after it agreed to suspend weapons development in return for US food aid .
“‘Negotiations do not necessarily mean concessions,’ says Choi Jin-wook at the [south] Korea Institute for National Unification. (In the case of the USA talking to the DPRK they do, but the south Korean gentleman is attempting to sweeten the pill before asking his master to swallow – Ed.) ‘The US can’t postpone negotiations any further.’” ( Financial Times, op cit)
It is precisely for such reasons that anti-imperialists around the world share in the success and pride of the Korean people. The Fars news agency reported Iran’s congratulations to the DPRK, with Brigadier General Masoud Jazayeri noting: “Dominant powers, like the United States, cannot halt the progress of independent states, who through resistance can quickly tread the path of scientific and technological self-reliance.”
Although, for various reasons, few states will currently speak publicly in such forthright terms, Brigadier General Jazayeri’s words in fact reflect the widespread sentiment throughout the developing countries.
Speaking at a banquet, given in Pyongyang on 21 December to honour the scientists, technicians, workers and officials who contributed to the successful satellite launch, Comrade Kim Jong Un said:
“Our country is strong and the revolutionary cause of the party is steadily making victorious progress as we have such genuine patriots as you…
“The present era is the age of science and technology and the age of knowledge-based economy and national power is decided by the level of the development of science and technology. The position and prospect of the country and the nation hinge on it.
“ Our party pays deep attention to developing space science and technology, which constitute the acme of ultramodern science and technology, and regards the possession of satellites and carrier rockets as an important issue in building a great, prosperous and powerful nation… You should develop and launch a variety of more working satellites including communications satellite and carrier rockets of bigger capacity with the same spirit and stamina with which you successfully launched satellite Kwangmyongsong 3-2 …
“No force on earth can block the advance of the powerful country unshakeable in ideology and strong thanks to science and technology and the great people united close around the party…
“Let us make redoubled efforts to bring earlier the day when we will fly the red flag of victory on the face of a thriving nation.”
The Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) sent a letter to Comrade Kim Jong Un, congratulating the Korean people on their successful satellite launch.