North Korea has been in the midst of one of the largest holiday celebrations in recent memory. To celebrate new leader Kim Jong-un’s ascension to power, and the 100th birthday of his grandfather, North Korea’s first “Dear Leader,” the communist country recently announced plans to launch a weather satellite into orbit. The satellite, to be carried by one of the country’s most advanced missile systems, would be Kim’s first major achievement as North Korea’s leader.
Unfortunately for Kim, the satellite never made it into orbit. In fact, the launch, which took place Friday, April 13th, was a disaster from the start. Shortly after lifting off, the rocket broke up and crashed harmlessly into the Yellow Sea. It was the first time the country had ever admitted failure despite three similarly unsuccessful attempts.
Not only was this failure a major public relations disaster for Kim Jong-un, it cost the North Korean government in a number of other ways. After investing roughly $450 million in a new launch site near the Chinese border, and the $400 million price tag on the rocket, North Korea ended up wasting nearly $1 billion on the entire endeavor—money it simply did not have to spend. As a result of the widely condemned launch, North Korea also sacrificed food aid from the United States which could have fed nearly one million people in the impoverished country.
In light of the dramatic failure of North Korea’s rocket, many analysts now fear that Kim will attempt to flex his muscle in a different manner. Intelligence analysts in Washington believe that Kim could authorize the underground test of one of North Korea’s twelve nuclear warheads within the coming month. Recent satellite imagery of North Korea allegedly shows preparation work being undertaken for just such an exercise.
With a new leader, North Korea is going through a transition period. Kim Jong-un’s father and predecessor, Kim Jong-il, ruled the fiercely private country for nearly 20 years. The newest Kim must affirm his position atop North Korea’s government. The worry here is how strong of a grip does Kim have on the handles of power? Should the United States be concerned about a potential overthrow of the Kim led ruling party? Which is a greater evil: Kim Jong-un with access to a nuclear arsenal or complete destabilization of a nation with nuclear warheads?
For more on the failed rocket launch click here.