Leader Development & Education for Sustained Peace Program: Cross-Cultural, Geopolitical & Regional Education

Topic Debate: North Korea’s Failed Rocket Launch

Background: On Friday the 13, North Korea launched a rocket allegedly aiming to send a satellite into orbit on the 100 anniversary of national founder Kim Il-Sung’s birth. Despite these claims, the U.S. and others concerned viewed the launch as a test of North Korea’s long-range missile capabilities in delivering a nuclear warhead. Though the attempt proved unsuccessful, the launch is a violation of the United Nations Security Council sanctions and the international community swiftly condemned the tests as deplorable and provocative. These developments come at a significant time for the U.S. In late February, U.S. officials met with North Korea’s top nuclear negotiator Kim Gye Gwan where North Korea reportedly agreed to “implement a moratorium on long-range missile launches, nuclear tests and nuclear activities at [their major nuclear facility in] Yongbyon” while the U.S. promised 240,000 metric tons of food aid to the impoverished country.

In spite of the widespread condemnation of North Korea’s behavior, the debate regarding these events comes with a range of different perspectives:

  • Dr. David Wright, a nuclear weapons and global security-missile defense expert with the Union of Concerned Scientists, explains that the science of how and why the rocket failed so soon after its launch is indicative of poor and underdeveloped warhead delivery capabilities.
  • John Hudson of The Atlantic argues that North Korea’s attempts to allay concerns regarding the rocket launch are unconvincing at best.
  • Josh Rogin of Foreign Policy considers the negative attention the rocket launch will bring to the Obama administration’s engagement strategy.
  • Michael Mazarr, a professor at the U.S. National War College, maintains that even as North Korea reneges on its deal with the U.S., it paves the way for an nontraditional engagement strategy: “one that transfers our main emphasis to using dramatic economic and social changes underway in the North to promote long-term U.S. and allied interests… through targeted direct foreign investment, people-to-people contracts, training programs,” and other meaningful initiatives.

What do you think of North Korea’s recent launch and how do you think the U.S. should respond?

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  1. Topic Debate: North Korea’s Successful Rocket Launch | LDESP Blog

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