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North Korean Space Launch Threatens To Scuttle US-N. Korea Deal

Korea's announced satellite launch has military implications. It may prove a deal breaker for the much touted US-N. Korea agreement.
By Amiel Ungar
First Publish: 3/18/2012, 11:27 AM

North Korea TV
North Korea TV
Reuters

When two and a half weeks ago, an agreement was announced with great fanfare between North Korea and the United States, under which the United States would supply massive food assistance and Pyongyang would suspend long-range missile tests and nuclear enrichment, this was seen as a victory for diplomacy.

Some optimists were quick to point out the ramifications for a similar agreement with Iran. The more skeptical, and particularly the Japanese, were distinctly cool and pointed out that there was a vagueness about what precisely was covered under the agreement allowing wiggle room to North Korea.

The forebodings of the pessimists have received vindication. North Korea announced that it plans to launch a satellite (for peaceful purposes of course) between April 12-16, to commemorate the birth of the regime's founder Kim Il-Sung.

A missile capable of putting a satellite in space is quite capable of carrying a far more lethal payload and therefore the Americans were quick to point out that the North Koreans were in violation of a UN decision.

The American State Department called the planned launch "highly provocative".

The Obama administration is now at loggerheads. Does it now suspend deliveries of 240,000 metric tons of food aid in response to the Korean launch or does it make do with a mild rebuke?

The US theoretically could justify sticking to the deal because it includes the admission of international inspectors to some North Korean nuclear installations.

In a rare measure, Chinese vice Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun expressed Chinese concern in a meeting with North Korean Ambassador Ji Jae Ryong,  according to the official Chinese news agency Xinhua.

China hosted the talks between the United States and North Korea and the success of the talks was a feather in the cap of the Chinese.The Chinese were not shy about claiming credit so the scuttling of the agreement would reflect badly on China.

Additionally, it is Chinese assistance that props up the North Korean regime and American food assistance could help alleviate China's burden. If the Americans canceled the deal, the burden will be back on China's shoulders.