With his first year in power coming to a close, it's time for Kim Jong-Un to show off his strength as a leader, and what better way to do that than by blasting a giant rocket into the heavens? On Saturday, North Korea confirmed suspicions that it was preparing to launch another long-range missile between December 10 and December 22, around the the first anniversary of Kim Jong-Il's death, despite widespread criticism from the international community. The Unha-3 rocket is supposed to be launched "southward" from a base in Sohae, hopefully without dropping any debris on neighboring countries.
Nobody outside of North Korea sounds very excited about this missile lauch. South Korea called the plan "a grave provocation" and "a challenge to the international community" that would spark a "strong response." Japan said that it was going to work with South Korea as well as the United States and China to talk Kim Jong-Un down from the missile-firing platform. Meanwhile, diplomats and experts explain that North Korea is simply trying to highlight discriminatory policies from the United States that allow South Korea to launch missiles but not North Korea.
An argument could be easily made that North Korea just isn't any good at launching long-range missiles. The country also stoked the ire of the diplomatic community in April, when it unsuccessfully launched a rocket from its Sohae base. It only few for a few seconds before breaking up and crashing into the ocean. The launch also cost North Korea a much needed food assistance program which the United States called off after the launch.
But no assistance for North Korea's starving citizens can compete with Kim Jong-Un's ego. "Kim Jong-un wants a demonstrable a feat to boost his legitimacy, and his technicians have assured him they are ready," John Delury, a North Korea expert at Yonsei University in Seoul, told The New York Times. "It doesn't hurt that South Korea is in the middle of a string of aborted efforts at launching a satellite of their own -- should Pyongyang succeed, it scores points in the ongoing inter-Korean rivalry, but also highlights what it sees as the hypocrisy of banning one Korea from doing what the other Korea does freely."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.