North Korea rocket launch - What next?

How Pyongyang responds to the failure of its much heralded rocket launch could offer clues as to the type of man the reclusive nation's young leader really is.


    TOKYO, JAPAN - And just like that, it's over.  Before anyone outside of Pyongyang’s inner circle could even figure out what was going on.

    At 22:39 GMT on Thursday, 7:39am local time on Friday in the Korean Peninsula and Japan, the North Koreans launched a rocket despite strong international opposition.  Or rather, it tried to launch a rocket.  

    Within 30 minutes, the US was calling it a "failure", saying it had reports that the North Korean rocket broke apart almost immediately after lift-off.  It didn’t even make it past South Korean waters.

    Compared to its allies the United States and South Korea, Japan took much longer to react to developments. A reality that has not gone down too well with many in Japan.

    While US and South Korean authorities were confirming that indeed a rocket had been launched, it took Japan’s Defense Minister longer to come out and even say his office had received information that a "flying object' had indeed taken-off in North Korea.

    The Defense Minister went on to add that the "object" had split apart a minute after lift-off, and fallen into the ocean in pieces.  Exactly what that "object" was, though, had still to be ascertained.  It was stressed that the important thing was that it posed no threat to Japan.

    Several hours on, and the Japanese government has yet to categorically inform its public that the "flying object" involved in the failed launch was indeed a "rocket", without the quotation marks.

    The government has lowered alert levels and life can go back to normal (not that North Korea's threats or actions changed much of anything for ordinary Japanese citizens).

    But that's no longer the point for many here who have had to live with what they see as the garish dog-and-pony show put up by their government in the last few days.

    PAC-3 surface-to-air missile launchers were positioned in 7 different locations ready to fire at the slightest North Korean trespass into Japanese airspace.

    Government officials assured the public the country was as ready as it could be, even against North Korea's unpredictability.  Or so they thought.  Turns out - there might be a few kinks in the system.

    In summary: the rocket was launched at 7.39 in the morning on Friday.

    By 7.40, Japanese officials had information from a US satellite that there was a sudden temperature surge in North Korea indicating a possible blast-off of some kind.

    It apparently took 20 minutes for that information to filter through government channels, and much longer for it to even be digested.

    In this instance, the rocket had failed by that time. But if it hadn’t, 10 minutes after take-off, it was expected to be flying past Okinawa in Japan’s south-west.

    Alarms to warn the public were supposed to have sounded by then.  At least that was the plan.  And it wasn't executed.  

    The government says there was no need set-off the alarm, but skeptics wonder if that's merely a convenient excuse now as it seems officials hadn't even figured out what was going on by the time the order should've been given to ring the bells.

    So the international community has deemed the North Korean launch a failure...  but it's succeeded in raising worrying questions for Japan.

    Further south, the Philippines too has lowered alert levels and moved on to other matters. 

    After holding its breath for days, what with this rocket launch, and facing Chinese vessels in a tense maritime stand-off, chatter is now about a part-Filipina contestant voted off an American talent show by the public.  The show's celebrity judges vetoed her elimination, so Jessica Sanchez lives to sing on Idol another day.

    But no one expects the collective exhalation to last too long. North Korea is believed to already be planning its next move It has to make-up for this public "failure".  

    What it does next could be the first true indication of exactly what kind of man its young, new leader is.

    Tick-tock.  Eyes are still on the clock.



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