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.