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Space Government The Military Politics

North Korea Launches "Communication Satellite" Rocket 492

Posted by timothy
from the transmitting-a-message-of-sorts dept.
Mad Ivan writes "The BBC has just reported that North Korea has launched a long-range rocket, which they say is a communications satellite, but that the US and Japan fear may actually be a ballistic missile. Details are still arriving; the rocket passed over northern Japan on its way up."
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North Korea Launches "Communication Satellite" Rocket

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  • First post! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 05, 2009 @01:34AM (#27463039)
    First (and last) post!
  • by Manip (656104) on Sunday April 05, 2009 @01:37AM (#27463057)

    The summary is just wrong...
    Nobody is suggesting (except the person writing this summary) that the payload of this rocket was anything more than a communications satellite.

    What the international community is concerned about is that this really isn't about the satellite and is instead just an excuse to test better ICBMs.

    North Korea is banned from launching ICBMs but allowed to conduct space exploration.

    • by shoemilk (1008173) on Sunday April 05, 2009 @01:55AM (#27463145) Journal
      Well, for the past two to three weeks, I've heard nothing but "this is a missile". Maybe it's because I'm in Japan and watching Japanese news. The biggest concern that Japan had (or atleast presented to the public) is that the North Koreans suck at making rockets and there was a big chance that it would fall and hit the northern part of Japan.

      There were threats back and forth "If it comes near us we'll shoot it down"
      "Shoot it down and next time we'll aim FOR you"
      "We'll shoot it down no matter what"
      "We're readying bombers to bomb you if you do"

      To the person wanting coverage, what they've been saying on the news is that they're looking for where it fell so they can pull it up and make sure it was a communications satellite.
      • by Antique Geekmeister (740220) on Sunday April 05, 2009 @02:57AM (#27463471)
        You know, it _doesn't matter_ if this launch was for a communications satellite. Just because this rocket contained a benign payload, doesn't mean the next one will. North Korea doesn't have the spare money to spend on building their own satellite launching systems when it's so much cheaper to buy a satellite launch from someone else. The next payload will be whatever North Korea decides to put in the rocket, and the expertise from peaceful rockets is amazingly useful for building missiles.
        • should be accused and consistently vilified over their "luxury" expenses at the cost of their own people it is North Korea. There never seemed to be and end to the bellyaching over India launching satellites as people pointed to all the people living in poverty there. Yet the only concern here seems to be that they now have a long range rocket and it might hit a civilized country. I guess we are so over the fact we can't do anything about North Korea that we totally ignore the people that live there.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by drinkypoo (153816)

            Right now we're concerned that the people of North Korea are going to become a danger to the rest of us, in the same way that the people of Germany and Japan became dangerous - it doesn't matter if you pick up a gun and fight or not, if you're not working against a war, you're supporting it just by going about your business back home. Same goes for the citizens of the USA right now, of course... So it's all a bunch of flag-waving bullshit - except that N.K. is the only country that much of the world believe

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by JOrgePeixoto (853808)

            You cold not be more right.
            You probably already know this, but the situation in North Korea is so
            horrible that the average north korean male is 5.9cm shorter than
            the average south korean male, due to chronic famine.
            http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2004/dec/05/northkorea [guardian.co.uk]
            The government, instead of fighting of famine (or simply accepting the
            foreign help), tries to stimulate people's growth with gymnastics
            (this isn't present in the link above; I read it on a newspaper and
            don't have a link right now).

            North Korea

      • by im_thatoneguy (819432) on Sunday April 05, 2009 @03:13AM (#27463523)

        Honestly what are the chances there is a communication sattelite on that thing?

        Even the most ambitious estimates didn't put this rocket into orbit.

        What good is a 'communications sattelite' that flys over Japan for 10 minutes?

        Also what are the chances any sizeable chunks of wreckage would survive impact? What do we intend to drudge up? Lint?

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by FooAtWFU (699187)
          The satellite appears to have communicated something to the International Community (tm), one way or another! Obviously it is a success.
    • by DrBuzzo (913503)
      They amount to the same thing. Anything that can launch a satellite can also send a warhead to another continent. ICBM's can launch payloads into orbit. In either case there's no doubt it is a military project. This is because North Korea spends more than 90% of the little they have on military related projects.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by BJH (11355)

      I don't know if you've realised, but communication satellites need to head into orbit, not a parabolic arc into the Pacific.

    • by Bill Currie (487)

      Except that in the news this morning (here in Japan) what they were saying is that there's no sign of supporting infrastructure for it to be a communications satellite.

      Unfortunately, I didn't understand the conclusion (my Japanese isn't that good yet.

    • From TFA, North Korea's neighbours suspect the launch was a cover for a long-range missile test.

  • Outstanding. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by palegray.net (1195047) <philip.paradis@p ... t ['leg' in gap]> on Sunday April 05, 2009 @01:37AM (#27463059) Homepage Journal
    As if this regime needed to be any more creative to continue their quest to piss off the world. Yeah, U.N. sanctions don't really mean a whole lot these days (did they ever?), but this is ridiculous.

    Honestly, if I thought for one moment that North Korea actually had peaceful space exploration motives in mind, about 50% of my objection to this would vanish instantly. As it stands, the regime is run by a madman with serious nuclear ambitions, something people tend to forget about.

    Personally, I wish we'd dealt wish North Korea a long, long time ago... perhaps in place of Iraq. I'm certainly no foreign policy expert, but I have served in the military, and I've always considered North Korea a much larger looming threat to regional and global security than Iraq ever was (with the exception of the Gulf War, that is).
    • Re:Outstanding. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by aliquis (678370) <dospam@gmail.com> on Sunday April 05, 2009 @01:45AM (#27463095) Homepage

      Yeah, U.N. sanctions don't really mean a whole lot these days (did they ever?)

      No, the countries with veto rights makes UN totally useless. North korea isn't one of those though.

      • by Corbets (169101)

        Funny thing is that most of us "countries with veto rights" could very well ignore UN resolutions anyway, even if we didn't veto them.

        So the organization is really rather pointless.

        • Re:Outstanding. (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 05, 2009 @02:29AM (#27463305)

          The point of the UN isn't to make and enforce international laws. It is only to provide a forum for discussion among nations. In that regard the UN has been quite successful.

          • Re:Outstanding. (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Toonol (1057698) on Sunday April 05, 2009 @02:48AM (#27463407)
            That point is often forgot. The purpose of the UN is communication. I have little respect or tolerance for the UN as it exists today, because of their evident desire to overreach their purpose. Still, I would hate for the UN to go away. It should have no power, though, besides the ability to assist member nations to conduct diplomacy.
    • Re:Outstanding. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Sunday April 05, 2009 @01:49AM (#27463107)

      The problem is there isn't a good way to deal with North Korea. They have a massive army, a very fearful and xenophobic populace, and tons of weapons trained on South Korea. So you have two scenarios, neither of which is really acceptable:

      1) Conventional attack. You send in large numbers of conventional forces to destroy their army and occupy the country. This would work, but at the first sign of invasion, North Korea will fire their artillery trained on the south. This features lovely things like poison gas warheads and such and easily reaches major cities. There is going to be a large loss of civilian life and infrastructure in South Korea because of this. There is also likely to be fairly heavy casualties in the invading military force. While North Korea's military isn't technology advanced, it is very large.

      2) Nuclear attack. You target nuclear tipped cruise missiles, bombs, and perhaps even some ICBMs at all military targets of any note. The idea is a single coordinated massive strike that simply eliminates all their counterforce capability. Perhaps large population centres are targeted as well. Ok well ignoring the whole problem with world opinion on WMDs, you have the problem that this will cause a massive loss of life in the north that is not limited to, or even primarily, military. There's then all the problems with fallout, lingering radiation and all that other nasty shit as seen in Japan in WWII and Russia when Chernobyl blew up. You could potentially (though no guarantee) eliminate the threat to the south in one swoop and crush the north's military, but at what cost?

      Thus far there just isn't a good suggestion for how you'd deal with North Korea and not have it lead to massive loss of civilian life on one or both sides. Thus it isn't a situation anyone wants to get in to. There's also the question of how China would react. While they don't seem to be so happy with North Korea any more, they do still support them. Let's not forget that is where North Korea's military support came for in the Korean War.

      All in all there doesn't seem to be a good answer, so it is just kind of left alone.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by palegray.net (1195047)

        you have the problem that this will cause a massive loss of life in the north that is not limited to, or even primarily, military.

        You're right, there's no good answer, and there hasn't been one for a long time (since my grandfather served as a Marine in Korea, in fact). That said, I see the North Korean people as faced with two choices:

        1. Depose their maniacal dictator and deal with the resulting upheaval in their society (considerable misery for their people).
        2. Accept a severe and devastating response from whatever nuclear-capable nation finally gets fed up with the threats and posturing from North Korean leadership.

        If I were their cit

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Erie Ed (1254426)
          All of that is easier said than done when you have a gun pointed at you 24/7.
        • Re:Outstanding. (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 05, 2009 @02:17AM (#27463255)

          And it is exactly this kind of stupid dichotomy ("we must fight or die!") thinking that pushes countries to war.

          There are actually other, peaceful, solutions to this. E.g. NK was actually starting economical reforms much like China did in the early '80s, with special economic regions near the border, until the new president (the "CEO president") of South Korea took the hard-line approach to the North, which, unsurprisingly resulted in similar stance from the NK.

          Had NK been allowed to continue their economic reforms, there could be hope that it will eventually be more open much like China did without any wars breaking out.

          By forcing your opponent to either fight or curl up and die, don't be surprised when you got a fight in your hands. Although it may be a hopeless fight for your opponent, remember that you are the one taking all the hope from him in the first place.

          Even the Art of War said always leave a way out for your opponents, you don't want to force him into a "fight or die" situation, because that's when he will fight most fiercely against you.

      • Evacuate South Korea first! We have plenty of desert here in Australia for shanty towns, and I'm sure the indigenous folk won't mind taking another one for the team!

        Joking, obviously...

      • Re:Outstanding. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Cbs228 (596164) on Sunday April 05, 2009 @02:30AM (#27463313)

        There is another option

        3) Coup d'etat. Replace the paranoid, militaristic North Korean regime with a new government—possibly one backed by the United States or her allies. Since the North Korean population is unlikely to do this on their own initiative, they will need some assistance and logistical support from another world power. Another country could theoretically encourage a "friendly" general to seize power and then back him up militarily, politically, and economically when he does so. The U.S. has a long history of supporting anti-Communist coups via the Truman Doctrine [wikipedia.org], and we have even backed totalitarian dictatorships—so long as they weren't Communist.

        A successfully executed coup could be relatively bloodless, would leave North Korea's infrastructure and population centers (such as they are) intact, and would certainly cost less money and manpower than a full-scale invasion. However, the outcome is entirely dependent on luck: military leaders might succeed in launching a WMD attack on South Korea before they are deposed, the new government might not be sustainable, or the coup might be a complete and utter failure. Additionally, U.S. involvement would require our intelligence agencies to demonstrate actual competence, and a U.S.-backed coup could seriously impact our relations with China. Still, I think a coup would be a better option than a full-scale attack.

        • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

          by Maelwryth (982896)
          "There is another option" Mod parent funny.....or at least don't let America have anything to do with it.
      • Where's Hans Blix when you need him? He should send a very cross letter immediately.

      • by klenwell (960296)

        There is going to be a large loss of civilian life and infrastructure in South Korea because of this.

        I believe the term of art I've heard experts on the region use to describe South Korea's role in any military resolution of the matter is "kill box".

    • by shoemilk (1008173)
      Personally, I think he's dead. About 4 or 5 months ago, there was a thing in the Japanese news about how Kim Jung Il hasn't been seen and missed all these big celebrations that he's never missed before.
      The North Koreans denied it and say he's alive, but I'll keep my tinfoil hat on, put my fingers in my ears and say "He's dead, Jim!"
      • Oh, he's alive alright. They just haven't finished perfecting the giant transforming robotic suit that he had them implant his brain into yet.

      • by mzs (595629)

        The rumor I heard is that he suffered a debilitating stroke instead of dead. Our rumors are both based on what wonks dreamed-up, so who knows.

    • by Ogive17 (691899)
      The thing is N. Korea keeps doing stupid shit that annoys the rest of the world, even nations that normally stick up for them like China and Russia are probably rolling their eyes thinking "what do they hope to accomplish?". No global power wants one of their "protected nations" causing problems around the world because inevitably they'd get pulled in as well.

      I do agree that N. Korea has been a bigger threat all this time. I think the world has wished Kim Jong Il would eventually just fade away if peopl
    • How was iraq a threat to global security in the gulf war? genuine question.

      • This little thing involving a nation called Kuwait, shitloads of oil (lots of wells set ablaze during the Iraqi retreat, as I recall), the global market for petroleum, and the complete and total destabilization of the balance of military power in the Middle East under the influence of a madman come to mind. Just a few factors, of course... daddy Bush should have finished the job the first time. We wouldn't have even had the opportunity to clean up his mess in recent (and ongoing) history if he'd got it righ
      • How was iraq a threat to global security in the gulf war?

        You could argue that in gulf war 1, invading Kuwait was a sign of a cancerous government in a region that we really needed to be stable so we could keep getting oil. Not a reason to invade that would have convinced many people, and had that been the express reason, the american public may have been more demanding that we rid our dependence on oil. So that one, maybe.

        Gulf war 2? I personally blame extremely short-sighted neocons who got very lucky for getting us started on that again, and national arrogan

    • fortunately we have the China problem and they will fiercely defend its fellow communist neighbor. they have nuclear weapons and could cripple the us economy since we buy everything from there today.

      • by gnick (1211984)

        China ... could cripple the us economy since we buy everything from there today.

        That's not even half of the issue. They not only make everything we buy, they lend us the $$$ to buy it. If they stop buying our treasury certs, Obama can kiss his stimulus plan good-bye.

        Picture this:
        You're on your lunch break and pass by a hot-dog vendor. You want a hot dog, but have no $$$. He offers to lend you $2 which you then give back to purchase a dog. You do the same thing the next day and the day after that. This goes on so long that the vendor needs the bizarre relationship to keep his stan

        • by Toonol (1057698)
          I think your analogy works, but I think it underestimates how much China depends on the United States. If they call in debt, it's a form of mutual destruction, a massive collapse on their end as well as ours. I don't think either party can choose to end the interdependency right now; it can only shift slightly from year to year. Maybe that's a good thing.
    • by Ihmhi (1206036)

      U.N. sanctions are typically stuff like "Well, we won't trade with you now until you learn to behave."

      The problem is that the people in charge have enough money to get all the stuff they way - cars, booze, food, etc. - smuggled into the country.

      If North Korea were an island, things would be easy peezy for a blockade. Set up ships and sink anything we don't want through. But since they have a land border with China, we basically can't do shit.

      If the U.N. somehow magically got China to agree to a full-on bloc

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      "Personally, I wish we'd dealt wish North Korea a long, long time ago"

      This is indeed wishful thinking, but one must consider many factors that were not present or as pressing in the case of Iraq.

      NK is armed to the teeth. Pretty much, every North Korean over 14 has been trained to use an AK 47. Their citizens are indoctrinated at levels perhaps unprecedented in post-WWII history. Not only that but they have actually built a nuclear weapon.
      Before anyone starts planning for invasion in the North, he has to an

  • capabiliy (Score:3, Interesting)

    by wizardforce (1005805) on Sunday April 05, 2009 @01:38AM (#27463061) Journal

    Now we know that the only thing stopping North Korea from hitting anything in Japan or elsewhere is intention or lack therof rather than ability.

    • The only thing stopping any country from doing anything is the inevitable retaliation.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Mashiki (184564)

        The only thing stopping any country from doing anything is the inevitable retaliation.

        You're forgetting that sanity has to apply to that equation as well. Tinpot dictatorships don't have any of that and are more then willing to sacrifice their people as long as the glorious leadership and it's selected people survive.

      • Which is percisely wow Kim wants nuclear weapons. No one will fuck with it afterwards.

  • I don't think it's loaded with much of anything. They just put some crowbars aboard, for the construction workers to use.

    http://www.technovelgy.com/ct/content.asp?Bnum=1582 [technovelgy.com]

    Nothing high tech, like a nuclear warhead, or a communications satellite. ;-)

  • by frank249 (100528) on Sunday April 05, 2009 @02:09PM (#27466963)

    Kim Jong Il: Now you see, the changing of the worrd is inevitabre!
    Lisa: I'm sorry, it's what?
    Kim Jong Il: Inevit, inevitabre.
    Lisa: One more time.
    Kim Jong Il: [shouts] Inevitabre! Things are inevitabrey going to change! Goddamnit, open your f**king ears!

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