The anniversary of the death of Kim Jong-il seems like a particularly appropriate time in view of the failure of the launch of the same type of missile April 13, two days before the centennial of the birth of Kim Il-sung, the father of Kim Jong-il and grandfather of Kim Jong-un. The missile plunged into the Yellow Sea 90 seconds after the launch.
Diplomatic efforts to dissuade North Korea from the launch have intensified even as satellite imagery shows North Korean engineers and technicians preparing a site in the far northwestern region of the country. Lim Sung-nam, South Korea’s envoy on efforts at dialogue with North Korea, has flown to Washington for talks with US officials that he says are intended “to maximize diplomatic efforts and coordination.”
North Korea appears oblivious not only to protests from the US, South Korea, and Japan, but also to discouraging words from China, its main benefactor and ally, and Russia, which also provides limited amounts of aid.
China, under pressure from the US and others to persuade North Korea to give up the plan, has been extremely circumspect. A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman has said that “all sides” should be careful not to “worsen the problem,” while stressing the need for “peace and stability on the Korean peninsula” and in the region.
Russia’s foreign ministry has been somewhat more direct, appealing to North Korea “to reconsider the decision to launch a rocket.”
The North Korean plan has rekindled memories of the launch of the first Taepodong on Aug. 31, 1998, when the rocket was fired over the main Japanese island of Honshu before landing in the western Pacific.