As NPR’s Louisa Lim put it Wednesday morning, North Korea’s launch of a long-range missile has been met with a “global chorus of condemnation.”
The U.S. condemned the “highly provocative act”; Japan called the launch “extremely regrettable”; South Korea said it was “a clear violation of the U.N. Security Council resolutions … and a threat to peace to the Korean Peninsula and around the world.” The U.N.’s Ban Ki Moon concurred. China, North Korea’s closest ally in the region, even offered a tepid criticism: “We hope relevant parties stay calm in order to maintain peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula,” said a spokesperson from the Chinese Foreign Ministry.
But, as commentators have noted, international censure falls on deaf ears in Pyongyang. As NPR’s Lim said, “There’s little left to sanction, and so far, international condemnation has done little to sway Pyongyang from its path.” Sanctions on the poverty-stricken country will nonetheless be tightened unilaterally following the launch, according to reports.
The successful rocket launch, following a string of humiliating failures, strengthens newly installed leader Kim Jong Un’s image at home and abroad — but there are more serious global implications too. As Reuters noted, “The rocket, which North Korea says put a weather satellite into orbit, has been labeled by the United States, South Korea and Japan as a test of technology that could one day deliver a nuclear warhead capable of hitting targets as far away as the continental United States.”
Concerns abound too about Iran’s involvement. Iranian Brig. Gen. Masoud Jazayeri told the Fars news agency that Tehran “congratulates the people and the government” of North Korea for the launch. According to Reuters, “U.S. intelligence has linked North Korea with missile shipments to Iran. Newspapers in Japan and South Korea have reported that Iranian observers were in the North for the launch, something Iran has denied.”
Meanwhile, despite elevated concerns, Reuters reported that North Korea is “believed to be some years away from developing a functioning nuclear warhead although it may have enough plutonium for about half a dozen nuclear bombs, according to nuclear experts.” As such, despite increasing already vice-grip-tight sanctions, the international community looks unlikely to respond to Pyongyang’s latest development.