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North Korea Loses Missile and Food Aid

U.S. Makes Good On Threat; Denies Killing Missile

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Updated April 15, 2012

North Korea's hapless rocketeers launched a missile on April 12, 2012, just as they said they would, and U.S. President Barack Obama has cut food aid to that country -- just as he said he would.

It doesn't matter that the rocket blew up and fell into the Yellow Sea; when it comes to provocative actions, it's the thought that counts.

North Korea has been planning for months to make the launch, supposedly to boost a weather satellite into orbit around the Earth. The launch was to coincide with the 100th birthday of its founder Kim Il-Sung, and it was supposed to prove that Kim Jong-Un (Kim Il-Sung's grandson and new leader of the country) is a great leader.

Instead, the launch only proved that, for now at least, Kim Jong-Un is following the path that his grandfather and father Kim Jong-Il (who died in December 2011) have taken -- the path of rogue state and irresponsible player in the community of nations.

Background

The Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (DPRK) formed after World War II. As the Soviet Union entered the war against Japan in August 1945, it quickly captured Japanese-occupied Manchuria in China, and then the northern part of the Korean peninsula. An agreement between the Soviet Union and the United States divided the peninsula, and the DPRK officially began in 1948.

With the backing of Soviet leader Josef Stalin and Communist China, the DPRK launched an invasion of South Korea in July 1950 that started the Korean War. That war ultimately saw the armies of the United States and China take over the fight. A cease-fire ended the fighting in July 1953. That cease-fire remains in effect, the major combatants having never signed an official peace treaty.

Communist North Korea has practiced the same style of "red fascism" that other 20th Century communist countries practiced. That is, there is little of Marxist communism in the government at all. Rather, the government took whatever profits its people earned and turned them back into strengthening the country's military or lining its leaders' pockets.

Food Aid

That practice has made North Korea one of the poorest countries on Earth. Thus the promise of food aid from the United States.

Obama's administration guaranteed North Korea some 240,000 tons of foodstuffs if Kim Jong-Un would call off further missile or nuclear testing. North Korea has made several attempts to fly missiles with varying degrees of success. If they were consistently successful, the TaePoDong 2 military missile could become an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of attacking other countries. North Korea has also exploded two nuclear weapons, one in 2006 and another in 2009.

North Korea has claimed that the missile launched on April 12 was an Unha 3, non-military booster. Americans, however, think it was a TaePoDong 2.

No Food Aid

On April 13, U.S. Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes said the U.S. is not going ahead with the planned food aid. "When this new regime [Kim Jong-Un's] took power after the death of Kim Jong-il, we had discussions with them about potentially an agreement where they would freeze their [uranium] enrichment activities and take some other steps towards denuclearization, and that we as a part of that might provide food assistance," said Rhodes.

"But we also made clear that we could not go forward with that type of agreement if they could not keep their commitments, and their efforts to launch a missile clearly demonstrates that they could not be trusted to keep their commitments," Rhodes said.

U.S. Involvement In Missile Failure?

In February 2010, the U.S. Air Force shot down an in-flight ballistic missile with a plane-mounted laser system. While former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates officially postponed further development of the Airborne Laser Testbed because of its price (reportedly in the billions to achieve the first kill), the fact remains: the United States has the ability to kill missiles with a high-energy laser beam. It has also been more than two decades since the U.S. rolled out the Patriot missile defense system that brought down Iraqi SCUD missiles aimed at Israel in the Persian Gulf War, and the U.S. recently helped Israel activate new missile-killing systems of its own.

So the big question: Did the U.S. help the TaePoDong 2 "fail"?

Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs George Little said the U.S. does not yet know what caused the missile failure, but he said "categorically that the United States military did not play a role" in the missile's failure.

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