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

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