Peter Beck, Korea representative of the Asia Foundation in Seoul, comments after North Korea failed to launch a rocket today:
On North Korea’s missile technology:
“I don’t think we can really know whether they have the technology or not but they certainly haven’t perfected it. They may have the technology. After all you would like to think they wouldn’t go through this exercise if they absolutely thought they would fail. Again, it doesn’t look like they achieved anything more than what they did in 2009. All they did was prove that they can do the same thing at two different locations.”
On possible halt of food aid from U.S.:
“Turning down 60,000 tons of food is peanuts. That’s not even a quarter of the rice shortfall they face each year. The regime has shown over the years that it really doesn’t care whether people starve or not. It cares about the military, it cares about the people in Pyongyang. For everyone else, it’s nice if they eat and it’s ok if they don’t. That’s why I think it’s a mistake for the Obama administration to punish the North Korean people by cutting off food aid.”
On rocket launch:
“With the missile launch, they’re burning through money. With a nuclear test, they’d be using precious material. Do all the testing you want, that’s one less bomb you can make.
‘‘They haven’t really changed the threat equation for the region or for the world. This is bluster, they’re just trying to show-off.
‘‘They are violating the U.N. resolution and it does violate the letter and spirit of Feb. 29. But in the end I think it was naïve to think we could accomplish anything with peanuts.
‘‘I don’t think it really will impress the average North Korean because the average North Korean is worrying about feeding their family. Whether it succeeded or failed, it doesn’t put food on their table. The world was not the intended audience, it was the North Koreans, it was the military, it was the elites as a way of celebrating their centennial with an elaborate, expensive firecracker.”
On impact of Kim Jong Un’s control:
“Given that the launch failed, it doesn’t do much for him. But we really don’t know how much he needed it to do for him. This most likely had been decided on ahead, decided on months ago before his father even died. Yes, he is in control but this was done to celebrate his grandfather.”