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What are North Korea's motives in putting a satellite in orbit?

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South Korean officials say the North Korean satellite launched yesterday is orbiting normally. The launch was condemned by the UN Security Council, but prompted dancing in the streets in Pyongyang. 

North Korean youths in traditional outfits play instruments in front of the Pyongyang Grand Theatre in Pyongyang, North Korea, to celebrate a rocket launch on Wednesday. North Korean youths in traditional outfits play instruments in front of the Pyongyang Grand Theatre in Pyongyang, North Korea, to celebrate a rocket launch on Wednesday. (Jon Chol Jin/Associated Press)The North American Aerospace Defence Command confirmed that "initial indications are that the missile deployed an object that appeared to achieve orbit." That makes North Korea the 11th country to have independently placed an object in orbit.

The launch could further isolate North Korea from the international community. The UN imposed two rounds of sanctions following nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009 and ordered the North not to conduct any launches using ballistic missile technology.

The three-stage - called Unha, Korean for "galaxy" - is similar in design to a model capable of carrying a nuclear-tipped warhead as far as California. 

As well, some reports link the timing of the launch to upcoming elections in South Korea (Dec. 19) and Japan (Dec. 16). 

But experts on North Korea that CBC News spoke with said the launch is probably intended more for internal reasons than international ones. 

"It's further evidence that Kim Jong-un has consolidated his leadership position," said David Kang, of the Korean Studies Institute at the University of Southern California. 

North Korea has only short-range missiles that could possibly hit South Korea or Japan, so successfully launching a three-stage rocket does extend the country's military range. 

"But realistically this doesn't make them any more dangerous today than they were yesterday," said Kang, because they would need to perfect guidance systems.

Scott Snyder, senior fellow for Korean studies at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, said the launch does represent a "significant step forward" in the country's military capabilities.

However, "in terms of trying to influence the international agenda, on almost every count, it just makes no sense," said Snyder.

Do you think North Korea's rocket launch was intended as a warning to the international community? Or is putting a satellite in orbit its way of boosting national pride? Let us know what you think. 



(This survey is not scientific. Results are based on readers' responses.)

Tags: Community, POV, space, World

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