Why North Korea’s Missile Launch Matters

North KoreaWritten by Ilan Berman in The Washington Times on December 20, 2012

North Korea’s successful use last week of  a long-range rocket to launch a satellite into orbit has catapulted the Asian  rogue state back into the international spotlight. It also has brought back the  global danger posed by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea into sharp focus.

There are at least two reasons why the North Korean test matters to the  West.

First, the launch speaks volumes about the maturity of the North’s missile  arsenal. Ostensibly, the Dec. 12 launch was intended to put a commercial payload  into orbit. But it also was a very public demonstration of North  Korea’s missile prowess because the rocket that carried the satellite into  space can be repurposed for ballistic-missile duties.

In fact, Pyongyang has long blustered about doing precisely that and focused  on developing a missile capability robust enough to hold the continental United  States at risk. Until now, it has fallen short of that mark. Several previous  tests of intercontinental-range ballistic-missile technology failed miserably.  Because they did, North Korea still could be  said to be a regional — rather than a global — threat.


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