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Why North Korea seems willing to ignore US warnings on missile test

The US, which has already withdrawn a promise of food aid, warns North Korea a missile test would be 'provocative.' But analysts see an attempt to bolster the country's young leader.  

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South Korean Army soldiers watch a TV news program at Seoul train station in South Korea on Monday, which shows North Korea's Unha-3 rocket.

Ahn Young-joon/AP

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The United States said Monday that any provocative action by North Korea – either a rocket test scheduled for the coming days, or what would be the impoverished country’s third nuclear test – would only further isolate the backward communist nation.

But it appears the North Koreans see things differently, with some analysts suggesting the regime is willing to sacrifice much-needed US food aid for a chance to strengthen popular support for the country’s new leader, Kim Jong-un.

Having ushered in foreign reporters over the weekend to see the launch-ready rocket, which the government says it will fire sometime between April 12 and 16, officials appear to want to demonstrate to the North’s people that the whole world is in awe and taking notice of their great nation.

But Pyongyang’s announced plans to launch what it says is a rocket carrying a communications satellite would be “highly provocative,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Monday.

The rocket to be launched is – at least in theory – a long-range missile designed to reach as far as the West Coast of the US.

White House spokesman Jay Carney also called the planned launched “provocative,” and said the US is working with countries with any sway with Pyongyang – that means China – to try to persuade the North Korean regime to cancel launch plans.

Asked about indications the North may also be preparing to carry out a third nuclear test, Ms. Nuland said such a step would be “equally bad if not worse.”

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