After all the bluster and hand-wringing over North Korea's big provocative rocket launch, the missile itself broke apart shortly after liftoff, falling into the Yellow Sea. Despite the technical failure, the rest of the world, particularly South Korea is still treating the launch as a serious and major provocation, quickly issuing condemnations and holding emergency security meetings. The U.N. Security Council is expected to meet later today and the United States has canceled a previously agreed upon plan to send food aid to the country.
The failure of the launch is particularly embarrassing for the new leader, Kim Jong-un, after his regime took the unusual step of inviting Western reporters into the country ahead of the launch that they touted as part of the development of a space program. Now the highly secretive government is forced to admit to the world (and its own people) that their grand experiment didn't work. The biggest concern now is that the North's leaders may attempt to make up for the humiliation with an even bigger show of force, perhaps by testing a nuclear weapon.
The silver lining in the news is that North Korea is obviously nowhere close to having the capability of launching a long-rage ballistic missile, never mind mounting it with a nuclear warhead. The bad news is that the new leadership is apparently doubling down on the old leadership's preference for aggression over peace and international ambition above the welfare of its people. South Korean intelligence estimates that their famine and sanction-plagued neighbor spent about $850 million on the rocket launch, enough to feed its entire population for close to a year.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.