Insights and Analysis

North Korea’s Missile Test: Off-Target?

April 8, 2009

By Scott Snyder

North Korea’s launch of a multi-stage rocket has been assessed by international experts as a technical failure, but the test has been at least a partial success in hitting four political targets: North Korea’s domestic audience, exploitation of international divisions among members of the six party talks, testing of the newly-established Obama administration, and exploitation of Chinese dilemmas over how to balance multiple conflicting objectives in its North Korea policy.

Target #1: The “Song of General Kim Jong Il” Plays in North Korea

The North Korean Taep’odong-2 rocket launch occurred just days prior to the April 9th convocation of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK)’s rubber-stamp Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA). This follows prior precedent, as North Korea’s 1998 Taep’odong-1 test was timed just prior to an SPA meeting and Kim Jong Il’s consolidation of control over the state, party, and military institutions.

The Korean Central News Agency reported that the Kwangmyongsong-2 satellite, “a shining product of self-reliance, was smoothly and accurately put into its orbit.” Rumors from external media may eventually challenge North Korea’s official narrative, but the message to the people of North Korea – following doubts raised by rumors of Kim’s illness – is that Kim Jong Il’s power remains intact, unthreatened, and unchallengeable. Read more.

Scott Snyder is a Senior Associate at The Asia Foundation and Director of the Center for U.S.-Korea Policy. Snyder first posted this piece in He can be reached at [email protected] For more analysis on North Korea, read the Center for U.S.-Korea Policy’s newsletter.

Related locations: Korea
Related topics: Center for U.S.-Korea Policy, North Korea


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