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CIAO Focus, April 2013: North Korea's Nuclear Program

In February 2012, the DPRK agreed to a partial freeze in nuclear activities and a missile test moratorium in return for US food aid. Since early 2009, the United States had provided virtually no aid. Relations between the DPRK and the international community were beginning to thaw, as analysts in the West looked upon the new leadership in Pyongyang with a mixture of expectancy and goodwill. That is, until on April 13th the DPRK put an earth observation satellite called Kwangmyongsong-3 (“bright star 3”) onto an expendable carrier rocket called Unha-3 (“galaxy 3”) and hurled it into the sky. The launch, purportedly for weather forecasting purposes, was a failure. The rocket disintegrated a minute or so after launch and fell into the sea west of Seoul. Nevertheless, the international media portrayed it as a veiled ballistic missile test, capable of delivering a nuclear warhead into any number of foreign cities.

In an unusual move, the DPRK acknowledged the failure and insisted that the launch was for peaceful purposes. The satellite was meant to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il-sung, Kim Jung-un’s grandfather and the founder of the state. For Japan, however, there was no room for misunderstanding. The Japanese chief cabinet secretary said “the flying object which North Korea referred to as a satellite was a missile,” and that his country would therefore seek another Security Council resolution against the DPRK.

With China and Russia urging the usual “restraint,” and with the US and others realizing early on that another resolution would not have been possible, the Security Council agreed that the launch was in violation of Resolutions 1718 and 1874 and needed to be condemned. On April 16 the Security Council condemned the launch and demanded that the DPRK not proceed with any further launches using ballistic missile technology, suspend all activities related to its ballistic missile program, and re-establish its pre-existing commitments to a moratorium on missile launches. No new resolution was passed; however, existing sanctions were tightened. Adjustments were made to the measures imposed by Resolution 1874 in 2009, which in turn included adjustments made to the measures imposed by Resolution 1718 in 2006.

--Eduardo Zachary Albrecht, International Peace Institute


 From the CIAO Database:

North Korea & the UN Security Council: Action, Reaction, Trust, and Mistrust

Balancing Chinese Interests on North Korea and Iran

The Elusive Nature of North Korean Reform

China-North Korea: Renewal of the "Blood Alliance"

North Korean Succession and the Risks of Instability

Can the North Korean nuclear crisis be resolved?


Outside Sources: *

North Korea nuclear threat: South Korea warns citizens that Pyongyang is now ready to launch a missile 'at any time' (Independent)

Q&A: North Korea nuclear programme (BBC News)

How North Korea Built Its Nuclear Program (The Atlantic)

The Six-Party Talks on North Korea's Nuclear Program (Council on Foreign Relations)

North Korea's Nuclear Weapons Programme (IISS)

UN condemns North Korea nuclear test (AlJazeera YouTube Video)

* Outside links are not maintained. For broken outside links, CIAO recommends the Way Back Machine.