North Korea’s Launch: Initial Analysis and Responses

On the radar: Launch appears successful; WH statement; Sanctions likely coming; Questions on IAEA’s data; Cold cooperation; Responses to the launch; HEU removed from Austria; and Full retaliation if POTUS killed during attack.

December 12, 2012 | Edited by Benjamin Loehrke and Marianne Nari Fisher

NORAD statement - “The missile was tracked on a southerly azimuth. Initial indications are that the first stage fell into the Yellow Sea. The second stage was assessed to fall into the Philippine Sea. Initial indications are that the missile deployed an object that appeared to achieve orbit. At no time was the missile or the resultant debris a threat to North America.”

Initial analysis - ”Based on the previous launch, the satellite was expected to be placed in orbit at an altitude of about 500 km. Initial tracking information shows that the satellite is in an orbit of 494 km x 588 km, with an inclination of 97.4 degrees, putting it in a sun-synchronous orbit. The satellite is not thought to be very capable, but will give North Korea experience communicating with it and downloading low-resolution images,” says expert David Wright at All Things nuclear.

--Open question: “One interesting question is whether North Korea really had last-minute technical problems that it managed to fix, or whether it orchestrated a campaign to fool those watching the launch.”

White House statement - “This action is yet another example of North Korea’s pattern of irresponsible behavior...North Korea is only further isolating itself by engaging in such provocative acts,” said National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor.

--”North Korea will only truly strengthen itself by abiding by international norms, living up to its commitments and international obligations, and working to feed its citizens, to educate its children, and to win the trust of its neighbors.”

And the rocket’s fuzzy glare - A Japanese tv station claims to have a video of the rocket’s flight, filmed from a Chinese coastal town. Posted at Francetv Info.

Context - “The DPRK’s success follows its failure to launch a satellite last April to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the birth of the regime’s founder, Kim Il-sung. The launch coincides roughly with the first anniversary of Kim Jong-il’s death on December 17. It is being credited as a major success within North Korea and will serve as an important symbol for regime consolidation under Kim Jong-un,” writes Scott Snyder. Full post analysis at Council on Foreign Relations.

Tweet - @FitzpatrickIISS: In response to the rocket launch, the UNSC should sharply tighten the ban on #NKorean entities involved in illicit trade.

Security Council - “The United States, South Korea and Japan are expected to seek tougher U.N. Security Council sanctions against North Korea for its launch. The Security Council will hold closed-door consultations on the launch Wednesday,” reports AP in its writeup of the launch.

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Syria - “How the US can prevent the use and spread of Syria's chemical weapons” by Darly Kimball and Paul Walker at The Christian Science Monitor. http://

IAEA data - The IAEA is increasingly reliant on third-party data and intelligence. This requires the agency to carefully vet and weigh the information provided to it before judging states’ compliance with safeguards agreements. It also opens the agency to accusations that third-party information is skewing or politicizing the IAEA’s work. Mark Hibbs at Foreign Policy describes the evolution and potential pitfalls of this approach.

Tweet - @FrankGKlotz: US and Russia conduct joint inspection under Antarctic Treaty. Read my take on bilateral cooperation

China’s rocket reaction - Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei expressed regret about North Korea’s launch, saying “We hope relevant parties stay calm in order to maintain peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula." From CNN.

South Korea reaction - "Our government strongly condemns, along with the international community, North Korea for ignoring repeated warnings and requests to cancel the launch and carrying on with such provocations," Foreign Minister Kim Sung-Hwan told reporters. From Channel News Asia.

UN Sec. Gen. - Spokesperson for the Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon expressed: “It is all the more regrettable because it defies the unified and strong call from the international community. It is a clear violation of Security Council resolution 1874 (2009), in which the Council demanded that the DPRK not conduct any launch using ballistic missile technology.” Statement here.

DPRK announcement - Youtube video of the North Korean TV special bulletin on the launch. (in Korean).

Roll eyes - “Iran congratulates North Korea on rocket launch” from AFP.

HEU out of Austria - The National Nuclear Security Administration announced the successful removal of all US-origin highly enriched uranium reactor fuel from Austria, as part of NNSA’s Global Threat Reduction Initiative. Press release here.

Tweet - @NSArchive: As Late as 1968 Plan for "Full Nuclear Response" If President Killed or Disappeared during Attack on US #FOIA #LBJ