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North Korea Shows Off Space Center and Launches Missile 294

Hugh Pickens writes "BBC reports that nobody would describe North Korea's mission control as imposing. It is a small, unremarkable, two-story building, tiny compared to Nasa's Houston home in America or Russia's space command. But the North's secretive regime, now headed by the third of the Kim dynasty to rule here, Kim Jong-un, is opening up, for the first time in an attempt to allay fears it is about to test missile technology that could deliver a warhead as far as America. 'Sixteen technicians man the satellite command center. Dressed in white coats, like doctors, they sit behind computer screens,' writes Damian Grammaticas. 'On a big screen are live pictures from the launch pad, showing North Korea's rocket being fueled up. The satellite it will carry has already been loaded on board, we are told.' Pyongyang says the minibar refrigerator-sized satellite covered with solar panels and golden foil to protect its instruments will broadcast martial music praising North Korea's founder, Kim Il Sung and is designed to monitor weather, natural disasters and agriculture patterns. As the five-day window for North Korea's rocket launch opens today, the United States has warned a launch would be a breach of UN Security Council resolutions that ban the North from testing missile technology. If North Korea goes ahead it could lead to UN sanctions, it has warned. 'That's why we have invited you, to clearly show that this is a satellite launch not a ballistic missile,' says Paek Chang-ho, head of the satellite control center. 'I hope you become supporters in showing the transparency of our satellite launch.'" After all that North Korea decided to launch a missile anyway. From the article: "The three-stage rocket, called the Unha-3, blasted off from the Soehae launch site near North Korea’s western corner with China, at about 7:39 a.m., the South Korea Defense Ministry said."
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North Korea Shows Off Space Center and Launches Missile

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  • by Psychotria ( 953670 ) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @08:13PM (#39667675)

    Missle in the title, the summary AND the "from the pay-no-attention-to-the-missle-behind-the-curtain dept". That's gotta be a record.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 12, 2012 @08:16PM (#39667705)

    After the launch...

    South Korea Defense Ministry - "On this screen you can see we are detecting vast forms of life in outer space.."

    BBC - "That looks a lot like the Pacific Ocean..."

  • Fail (Score:5, Informative)

    by Dan East ( 318230 ) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @08:18PM (#39667733) Homepage Journal

    Numerous news sites are reporting that the launch failed - it broke apart shortly after launch.

  • Kaputnik (Score:5, Informative)

    by daveschroeder ( 516195 ) * on Thursday April 12, 2012 @08:22PM (#39667765)

    Yep, and the launch failed [].

    Of course, even a failed launch is still valuable information for North Korea, as that is part of the whole point of such tests.

    • Re:Kaputnik (Score:5, Insightful)

      by sqrt(2) ( 786011 ) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @08:27PM (#39667813) Journal

      It shows you just how isolated they are. Any other country wanting to build a rocket to send a satellite into space could build on the 100+ years of research and development done by the rest of the world.

      I'm sure whatever mistake they made here was made by some rocket scientist in the past and has already been corrected, but they don't have access to that. They had to start from nothing and repeat all the mistakes of the past.

      I'm sure they get some help from the Russians and China, but they are all about trying to do things their own way, alone. Except feed themselves, apparently.

      • Re:Kaputnik (Score:5, Interesting)

        by mug funky ( 910186 ) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @09:32PM (#39668363)

        their entire weapons program is based on freely available info.

        their plutonium is made by reverse engineered magnox reactors.

        their missiles are based on (old) russian tech. ...neither of which they seem to be able to do right. they get frighteningly close, but by frightening i mean they have a lot of toys that could explode and cause damage beyond their borders.

        • Three launches and three failures. You get the sense these guys don't test their stuff before launch so much as they take the Dear Leader's word that it'll work just because. My understanding is that magical thinking is enforced from the top down in NK. Then again, I'd rather them be evil and stupid rather than evil and smart.
      • smells like juche spirit.

      • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

        by sjwt ( 161428 )

        Indeed, they are so backward that they didn't even kill 7 Astronauts by ignore their own teams warnings!

        New mistakes are found every day, and sometimes you just get a failure.

      • by doston ( 2372830 )

        It shows you just how isolated they are. Any other country wanting to build a rocket to send a satellite into space could build on the 100+ years of research and development done by the rest of the world.

        I'm sure whatever mistake they made here was made by some rocket scientist in the past and has already been corrected, but they don't have access to that. They had to start from nothing and repeat all the mistakes of the past.

        I'm sure they get some help from the Russians and China, but they are all about trying to do things their own way, alone. Except feed themselves, apparently.

        That and their scientists probably don't perform as well on a skimpy diet with a gun to their head. I wouldn't be surprised if some North Korean prison camps got a few new members this week. I don't know about the research info...they probably bought that from China or on the black market a long time ago. Digressing here, but how did we let a regime this nuts get their claws this close to a working long range weapon, yet we're stomping all over the middle east, supposedly to prevent just this. I do know

        • by jonwil ( 467024 )

          The difference is that the Peoples Republic of China doesn't have a vested interest in stopping the US from taking over Iraq or Iran.

          The PRC doesn't particularly like the idea of a nuclear armed North Korea but they like the idea of the land currently labeled "North Korea" controlled by the South Koreans or the US even less.

  • by hyades1 ( 1149581 ) <> on Thursday April 12, 2012 @08:23PM (#39667769)

    And in the belly of an oddly-configured 747 flying just beyond North Korea's radar horizon, a scientist skilled in laser technology was heard to mutter, "Pull!"

  • by Sponge Bath ( 413667 ) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @08:23PM (#39667773)

    The previous /. story covering the new US agreement to provide aid was filled with posts of optimism, and contempt for anyone expressing skepticism as old relics too hardened in their ways to accept the new dictator's good faith.

    I'm still skeptical.

    • Re:Predictable (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Bomazi ( 1875554 ) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @08:45PM (#39667967)

      Of course they won't give up their nuclear weapon program in exchange for food aid, but that is irrelevant. Aid should be given, in exchange for nothing, even if it might be diverted or otherwise help the regime last. Using the threat of famine for political gains is unacceptable. North Korea does it to some extent, we shouldn't.

      • Re:Predictable (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 12, 2012 @09:18PM (#39668231)
        North Korea would have the economic power to buy food for its citizens itself if it wasn't blowing it all on shiny nukes and rocketry instead. The rest of the world shouldn't be expected to feed its people while it behaves like an irresponsible and rebellious teenager that spends all its money on hookers and fast cars. On the other hand, since the North Korean leadership has already demonstrated that it is perfectly willing to let its people starve so that it can play with shiny toys, outside demands aren't going to make much a difference. There is no easy answer to the situation.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by fnj ( 64210 )

          You mean kind of like the way the USA is spending beyond its means on all sorts of things while many are homeless? And the price of food is rocketing beyond the means of many?

          • Re:Predictable (Score:5, Insightful)

            by the gnat ( 153162 ) on Friday April 13, 2012 @12:16AM (#39669503)

            You mean kind of like the way the USA is spending beyond its means on all sorts of things while many are homeless?

            I don't approve of my country's budget priorities either, but there's a couple of crucial differences:

            1. It's not illegal for the homeless to seek gainful employment in the private sector.

            2. It's not illegal for the homeless to leave the country and find another with less craptastic public policy.

            In North Korea, everyone is completely at the mercy of the government for every need, all the time. Complaining means getting thrown into prison camp. Trying to escape the country means getting thrown into prison camp. Trying to make money to support your family because your government job stopped paying you two years ago could also mean getting thrown into prison camp, except from what I've read NK stopped enforcing that rule because it's the only way most of the country is still alive.

            The people of North Korea are serfs - there's simply no other word for it. When the majority of the USA is burning garbage to stay warm, the entire population is several inches shorter than Canadians, and the border to Mexico is blocked by barbed wire and guard towers to keep the Americans from emigrating, then you can make simplistic comparisons.

          • Re:Predictable (Score:4, Insightful)

            by roca ( 43122 ) on Friday April 13, 2012 @07:28AM (#39671503) Homepage

            It's absolutely mad to compare hunger and poverty in the USA to what happens in North Korea.

            When a significant percentage of Americans are eating rats, bark and grass to try to stay alive, and fleeing to Mexico to find food, then you'd have a comparable situation.

        • Re:Predictable (Score:5, Interesting)

          by gman003 ( 1693318 ) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @10:52PM (#39668933)

          Sure there is.

          First, infiltrate the NK working classes. Give them outside information - anything they want. Secret Agent Man sneaks in, finds a farmer family, gives them each a Big Mac meal - Super-Sized - and a rundown of our side of the story. Don't ask them to do anything except listen. Just try to convince them that we're not the mass-murdering monsters the NK propaganda claims. Above all, though, be honest - admit to the things we have done wrong, don't hide it. It's not the glamorous James Bond spy gig, but it will actually work. Repeat on a massive scale - the number of agents involved should reach the thousands. Masquerade it as a food benefit program, if necessary.

          Second, start cutting off the rich kids' toys. We have sanctions on wheat and corn for the peasants, but the king still drinks $10,000-a-bottle champagne. Find a way to crack down on that sort of thing, and you'll either get them to seriously back down, or to go to even more extremes to maintain power.

          If the leaders did back down, a relatively bloodless revolution will come about naturally, over the course of decades. Just like the Soviet Union - the leaders liberalized, the oppressed used their new freedoms to get rid of *all* the tyranny. Didn't work out perfectly, but still better than the alternative. No more work involved on our end.

          If, however, Kim III clamps down tighter, get your "secret agents" to start a push for an armed revolution. Target especially the members of the army - when one in five North Korean combat-age men are in the army, you'll need to do something to shift those numbers. Promise the rebels full support - and GIVE it. They call for air strikes, give them. They ask for Stinger missiles, give them. The absolute worst thing you could do is fail to follow through at this point. This is arguably the only expensive part of the plan.

          If the revolution succeeds, try to angle them towards reunification. It'll be tough on South Korea's economy for a bit, but they're in good enough shape to handle it. If they insist on independence for whatever reason, make sure no new dictators pop up, through assassinations if necessary.

          Even if the revolution fails, the country will be in total ruins. Once the fighting stops, the generals will realize there's no food *at* *all*, and they'll either force the leadership out, or force them to accept any terms to get foreign food. You'll still have a dictator, but a pacified one, and one in a very, very tenuous situation.

          The only complicating factor is China. China views NK as a necessary buffer state between it, and the South Korean and American armies below. They've been propping the country up for half a century. They'll need to be neutralized somehow before any of this can have a reasonable chance of success.

          Best option? Trade. China is the world's #1 exporter, but also the world's #2 importer. Unlike North Korea, they *depend* on the rest of the world.

          The best place to squeeze them is on manufacturing technology. They import almost all their manufacturing machinery from either the US or Japan, both of whom have a vested interest in neutralizing North Korea. Getting Russia to join in by cutting off the flow of oil and power from the North would also help, but might be optional.

          Obviously, selling the American public on accepting a huge spike in consumer good prices "for liberating North Korea" will never work. However, doing so "for FREEDOM" might. There's been a huge amount of anti-Chinese rhetoric in American politics lately - between latent Sinophobia (racism against Chinese is probably one of the more tolerated bigotries in the US), and the whole "China buying up America" debt scare, you could probably sell America on accepting a spike in prices at least long enough to execute the NK plan.

          OK, fine, so it's not *easy*, but it is *possible*. And if there's ever a revolution in China that leads to them abandoning NK, it *does* become easy.

          But, as better men than I have said, "doing what is right is not always easy, and doing what is easy is not always right".

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward

            Interfering with their internal affairs is not right. If the people want a revolution, they will have one. If they do not want, who are you to tell them what is better for them? North Korea is not unique, many countries have dictatorships and monarchies, and they will all go down in due time. It is not your country, no matter how good you try to pretend your intentions are "freeing" them is not your responsibility but theirs.
            The only thing your plan would achieve is replace a dictator with another (that and

          • Re:Predictable (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 13, 2012 @02:07AM (#39670031)

            Somewhere, an intelligence analyst is rolling on the floor laughing at your post.

            Infiltrate the North Korean working classes? Secret Agent Man just sneaks in? If he somehow manages to get into the country, the first peasant to see him is going to run screaming for help from the army. According to everything they've heard in their lives, the West is a big scary monster out to kill them. How many Secret Agent Men are you prepared to sacrifice before you get one who lasts longer than a couple of hours before he's shot?

            More fundamentally, North Korea has a shedload of conventional artillery pointed at Seoul: the capital of South Korea, with a few million people. As soon as you do anything that they notice and don't like - possibly including cutting off food aid, but definitely including any Secret Agent Men - they can open fire and destroy more economic activity than their entire country is worth, several times over. If it weren't for this, the US would probably have just bombed the damn place already.

      • Re:Predictable (Score:5, Insightful)

        this is akin to holding the cops accountable for what the kidnappers do

        nobody in the world is using the threat of famine for political gains on the issue of north korea, except north korea

        if the world is interested in feeding the people of north korea, it would remove the impediment that is preventing the people of north korea from feeding themselves. that would be the government of north korea

        or, the world could continue to ship grain to north korea while its government builds nukes and ICBMs instead of feeding its people. so with every passing decade, we have more and more weapons of mass destruction, and people still starving unless the world continues to feed them

        we can wait for the government to collapse itself. except that we've been doing that for over 50 years, and it never collapses. it just invests in more advanced military technology. we reward them for those efforts, because we prove to them we will still feed them no matter how crazy they act or how many threats they make or how vile the weapons they build

        the people of north korea continue to starve, the weapons technology proliferates to other vile regimes in the world, more weapons get stockpiled, and therefore the stakes involved with the government of north korea collapsing get more dire: who gets the weapons in the anarchy that follows? what does the long life of the north korea regime and the timidity of the world governments say to other countries who wish to engage in warmongering and neglect of its own people?

        this doesn't end well. and the longer the regime lasts, the less well it ends. and the whole time, the people there starve and suffer

        the interest in peace sometimes requires difficult choices. hundreds of thousands would die in south korea if north korea is attacked. but kicking the can down the road just means the choice gets more difficult later, and more die later

        i have two thoughts:

        1. the longer the regime lasts, the more people die when the regime goes away. so the bravest choice is to confront them as soon as possible. we have not done this, and now they have nuclear weapons while their people eat leaves
        2. china stops covering for its rabid historical ally, and begrudingly accepts a united korean penninsula under a seoul friendly to the west. chinese nationalism does not accept the numbers of chinese who died for the existence of north korea o allow this outcome

        am i a warmongerer for having these thoughts? because i am critical of a regime that endlessly prepares for war and does not feed its own people? how is that possible in your mind to not see the malice where the malice actually lies: pyongyang

        i am saying this does not end well. you can dispute me

        1. some kidnap scenarios end with the kidnapper and the hostage and a lot of police dead.
        2. some end with the kidnapper in custody and the hostage safe

        i'll try to be optimistic and think pyongyang will go away in scenario 2. but my gut and my mind tell me scenario 1 is more likely. i am sorry, i do not think i am being pessimistic here, i think i am being realistic about the obvious and long demonstrated malice of this rabid kooky mafia cult

    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by hoboroadie ( 1726896 )

      I'm sad I missed that (damn job!) The North Koreans are real cut-ups, ripe for some mockery. Anyone who takes them seriously, aside from the occasional commando raid or whatever, is over-estimating. If they went to war with anyone, they would need total support from China or someone, and the Chinese are having too much fun fucking us economically. If the Chinese sucker us into a war, it'll probably be with Iran, but I don't see why they need to crush us that badly. Revenge?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 12, 2012 @08:25PM (#39667779)

    Seriously the hypocrisy of the Americans is astounding. In regards to this launch the North Koreans did everything by the book

    - They applied to the international regulatory authorities for space launch approval and orbital slot
    - They posted air and maritime notices
    - They had the international press to tour the launch site

    Now any other country doing this would not have any issues. But if it is Iran or North Korea then go fuck yourself because the Americans don't like you. Don't forget that after all these years Cuba still deserves that embargo, you know because they are such a threat to the Americans.

    • Yeah, I mean the UN Security Council is really just a bunch of talking heads pumping out American Propaganda! Not. Yes, that's a not joke. I don't care.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 12, 2012 @08:38PM (#39667905)
      I really don't care what the Americans think, but being from Japan, I think they should put NK in the ground.
    • by HBI ( 604924 )

      Other nations aren't doing underground nuclear tests to go with their ICBM tests.

      Yes, the difference between an ICBM and an orbital shot is the intended trajectory.

    • by CaptainLard ( 1902452 ) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @09:00PM (#39668071)

      Now any other country doing this would not have any issues.

      I'm not going to argue that the US isn't grossly hypocritical but you can't call North Korea just another country. Not 2 years ago they torpedoed and sank a south korean navy ship! 2/5 of their population is currently in the military and up to 400k of the rest are in prisions/camps with a 40% mortality rate. The reason the population isn't in constant famine is because of food aid provided by countries such as the US under conditions that they not develop ICBMs! Their grand leader for eternity died decades ago. IMO, north korea filing a flight plan for a rocket launch is about the same as someone guilty of a knife attack applying for a gun. As for Iran, the US should get the hell out of the middle east but a regime who's goal is to destroy a nearby country (Israel) shouldn't get a free pass.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 12, 2012 @11:35PM (#39669255) can't call North Korea just another country. Not 2 years ago they torpedoed and sank a south korean navy ship!

        If you had got past the initial hype, you could have found that when the S. Koreans asked Russia to review the findings of the S. Korean investigation, the report was never published because in the words of a US Ambassador to Korea it would be embarrassing to Obama and damage the S. Korean president. (International Herald Tribune, 31 August 2010).
        A leaked version of the report suggested a S. Korean mine was the likely culprit and that fragments of torpedo had been in the water much too long to have been responsible.

    • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @09:20PM (#39668259)

      - They applied to the international regulatory authorities for space launch approval and orbital slot
      - They posted air and maritime notices
      - They had the international press to tour the launch site

      You forgot a few:

      - They promised to suspend weapons testing, including missile launches, in exchange for food aid.
      - They maintain one of the largest armies on the planet.
      - They launched an unprovoked artillery attack on an American ally just last year, killing mostly civilians.
      - They have never signed a peace treaty ending the Korea War. There is only a cease-fire. Technically we are still at war with them.

      • by AK Marc ( 707885 )

        They have never signed a peace treaty ending the Korea War. There is only a cease-fire. Technically we are still at war with them.

        Did we ever technically declare war on them? I didn't think so, in which case, we never were at war, so the lack of a peace treaty indicates a lack of an end to a non-war.

      • A ceasefire which they repudiated in 2009.

    • Brought to you by the D.P.R.K

      Sorry, but your tag is showing.

    • by roca ( 43122 )

      The North Korean dictatorship pursues nuclear and missile weapons while its people starve. It maintains order with torture, arbitrary executions and a network of prison/slave labour camps. It sells nuclear and missile weapons technology to anyone who'll buy, making the world a more dangerous place. It is a very, very nasty regime. It blackmails countries into sending food aid by making promises to change, and then breaking them --- and aid is diverted to the military anyway. So yeah, anyone in their right m

  • by stevenfuzz ( 2510476 ) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @08:33PM (#39667859)
    Apparently the AP is reporting that the missile broke up shortly after lauch, and has called the launch a failure. This is not entirely true. The missile broke apart releasing millions of pieces of paper simply stating "You are happy. North Korea make great party. You are not hungry.". According to officials in North Korea the launch was a great success.
  • by grouchomarxist ( 127479 ) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @08:37PM (#39667891)

    The missile was supposed to mark Kim Jong Un's ascension to power, but it failed to rise to the occasion.

    • And all the women now know that he simply couldn't get it up long enough before it blew its load. How embarrassing.

  • by schwit1 ( 797399 ) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @08:39PM (#39667913)

    His family and anyone he works with and their families are in trouble.

    • Yeah, he'd be feeling pretty ronery right now.
    • The hilarious part is that this is probably why all of their missile launches have been failures. If they keep killing or torturing the guys who are responsible for each failed launch, the next guys have to start from scratch without the benefits of learning exactly what went wrong. So let's let them keep doing this and laugh at how stupid and shortsighted they're being.

  • When the previous missiles were had names that were phonetically "Type O Dong", they were certain to work. Now that the missile names don't automatically lend themselves to silly jokes, they can't possibly work.
  • by jbeaupre ( 752124 ) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @09:17PM (#39668211)

    ... and hired SpaceX to launch their satellite.

  • who show up in every story that might possibly condemn another country

    oh here they are: []

    hey, geniuses: it's actually mentally possible to... drum roll please... get this far out idea:

    1. dislike country XYZ, and
    2. dislike the USA,
    3. at the same time!

    no freakin way! i know, radically subversive mental concept huh?

    get this piece of really far out thinking: you can actually condemn North Korea, and, still dislike the USA? whoa, heavy stuff

    you don't actu

  • by AlienIntelligence ( 1184493 ) on Friday April 13, 2012 @02:30AM (#39670147)

    That's pretty bad if the new leader's missle {sic} is only useful for a minute.

    I thought he was was younger than that.


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