Was North Korea's Mysterious 'Satellite' Launch A Sales Pitch To Iran?

North Korea Central News Agency said Sunday's launch of a Kwangmyongsong-2 satellite over the Sea of Japan was nothing more than an effort to broadcast patriotic songs from space to honor Kim Il Sung, the founder of North Korea. Oddly, nobody's heard any music yet.

"It is sending to the earth the melodies of the immortal revolutionary paeans 'Song of General Kim Il Sung' and 'Song of General Kim Jong Il'," the official KCNA report said.

Unfortunately, international observers say it was not a satellite that was launched but a long-range missile, a Taepodong-2 with a range of 2,5000 statute miles. Though the missile is reckoned to have crashed into the waters between Japan and the Korean peninsula, the launch heightens tensions between the DPRK and the international community.

Last night on PBS's NewsHour U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice unpacked the recent developments in the DPRK saying the launch was an indication of the DPRK's desire to develop more long-range intercontinental arms. "I don't think a failed launch—if that's, in fact, what we're dealing with—gives them more clout," Ambassador Rice said.

But In a telephone conversation today, James Auer Director of Vanderbilt University's U.S.-Japan Center said the launch definitely gives North Korea more buzz if they want to sell nuclear matériel to countries like Iran but added "who knows what their motivation is."

Censuring the North Korean government for the launch is unlikely to come from the UN Security Council. Member states China and Russia both have distanced themselves in the past from the stern warnings favored by the U.S., South Korea and Japan.

Further reading and listening:

An examination of the DPRK's satellite launch technology

NPR's report on Kim Jong Il's slow physical decline

CFR's on the game of brinksmanship on the Korean peninsula

​There are two kinds of failure – but only one is honorable

Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.

Big Think Edge
  • Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
  • At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

Saying no is hard. These communication tips make it easy.

You can say 'no' to things, and you should. Do it like this.

  • Give yourself permission to say "no" to things. Saying yes to everything is a fast way to burn out.
  • Learn to say no in a way that keeps the door of opportunity open: No should never be a one-word answer. Say "No, but I could do this instead," or, "No, but let me connect you to someone who can help."
  • If you really want to say yes but can't manage another commitment, try qualifiers like "yes, if," or "yes, after."
Keep reading Show less

Six disastrous encounters with the world’s most hostile uncontacted tribe

From questionable shipwrecks to outright attacks, they clearly don't want to be bothered.

Culture & Religion
  • Many have tried to contact the Sentinelese, to write about them, or otherwise.
  • But the inhabitants of the 23 square mile island in the Bay of Bengal don't want anything to do with the outside world.
  • Their numbers are unknown, but either 40 or 500 remain.
Keep reading Show less

Why is 18 the age of adulthood if the brain can take 30 years to mature?

Neuroscience research suggests it might be time to rethink our ideas about when exactly a child becomes an adult.

Mind & Brain
  • Research suggests that most human brains take about 25 years to develop, though these rates can vary among men and women, and among individuals.
  • Although the human brain matures in size during adolescence, important developments within the prefrontal cortex and other regions still take pace well into one's 20s.
  • The findings raise complex ethical questions about the way our criminal justice systems punishes criminals in their late teens and early 20s.
Keep reading Show less