Everything you wanted to know about the North Korean missile launches and didn’t care enough to ask:

  • Voices in South Korea are criticizing the government for its relatively easy-going response to the latest North Korea-ism, especially compared to Japan. According to SBS, President Roh didn’t get his first report on the missile launches until 5:01 a.m., immediately after the Taepodong 2 launch but roughly an hour and a half after the first missile launch. Prime Minister Koizumi got his first report a mere 20 minutes after the first missile was launched. Japan called a ministerial meeting at 4:00 a.m., while the first South Korean meeting was held at 5:00, and that was a Defense Ministry crisis committee meeting. Japan called a national security council meeting at 7:00 a.m., while South Korea called one at 7:30. Cheong Wa Dae explained, however, that its crisis control manual stipulates that a report go to the president only after a Taepodong goes off. And, as one Cheong Wa Dae adviser said, it’s natural that there be a difference in the sense of crisis between Korea, which is already well within North Korean missile range, and Japan, which is just now coming within North Korean missile range. Anyway, the administration is coming under fire not only from the conservative opposition, but also from some sectors of the ruling party.
  • As posted earlier, South Korea will likely review its relationship with Pyongyang, and it appears Seoul has decided to suspend rice and fertilizer aid to the North, although no official decision has been made as far as I know. Seoul is embarrassed, with Pyongyang ignoring several warnings, and the Roh administration may find it difficult to ignore worsening domestic and international opinion and pretend like nothing’s happened. At least initially, anyway. Baek Hak-sun, a researcher at the Sejong Institute, told KBS that because the launch was aimed at the United States, intra-Korean ties might be rocky, but as time passed, Seoul would maintain its fundamental policies of reconciliation and cooperation with Pyongyang. At any rate, it looks like next week’s intra-Korean ministerial meeting in Busan will be held as scheduled.
  • Yonhap reports that while Cheong Wa Dae may protest the launch, it has decided to act carefully and flexibly under the belief that increasing tensions on the peninsula won’t help matters. Cheong Wa Dae’s unification, diplomacy and security office told Yonhap that putting pressure on the North and creating tension would not help resolve the problem and, considering the positions of China the nations involved, would be of dubious effectiveness. Cheong Wa Dae’s foreign policy people would like to patiently resolve the missile issue through dialogue. They believe the North’s objectives behind the launch were political, and as such any response should be political and diplomatic.
  • Yonhap also has a very long and boring piece on why you can stick a fork in the six-party talks for now, although it does note that even hardliners United States and Japan are still calling for Pyongyang to get back to the talks, so there’s some room for hope, I guess.
  • While we’re at it, Yonhap also noted that additional missile tests could take place over the next couple of days, quoting the WaPo.
  • The Chosun Ilbo, of course, is bashing the governments of both Koreas. So is the JoongAng Ilbo. The Hankyoreh also condemns North Korea’s “misjudgment,” but also calls on Seoul to handle things in a manner that doesn’t make things worse.

UPDATE: Strategy Pages is reporting that North Korea’s unusual dealings may extend to more than just missiles—the site claims that North Korea has been keeping the trains the Chinese use to ship aid to the country, sending the crews across the border. I can’t find any news stories corroborating this, however, and the story’s unusally bizarre even by North Korean standards.

UPDATE 2: Russia and China have shot down a proposed UN Security Council resolution calling for sanctions on North Korea. I know… who would have seen that coming?

UPDATE 3: The JoongAng Ilbo reports that Korea’s TV broadcasters are taking flack for their lackadaisical treatment of early reports of the launches. State-owned KBS was actually the last of the major broadcasters to report the launch, running a short cut-in during live World Cup coverage some 58 minutes after Japan’s NHK ran its first report. NHK’s report, which was the one cited by all of Korea’s major broadcasters, was made 4:29 a.m. SBS issued its first report of the launch at 4:59, followed by MBC seven minutes later. KBS 2 didn’t issue it’s first report until 5:27. Also interesting was that while MBC and SBS ran four and two cut-ins, respectively, KBS ran only one. Neither KBS-2, MBC and SBS saw it necessary to interrupt live coverage of the Germany-Italy match, preferring to break the news through subtitled cut-ins along the lines of “NHK reports North Korean missile launch.” The JoongAng Ilbo quoted two professors as criticizing taxpayer-funded KBS for shirking its responsibility to give priority to major news stories. KBS, however, defended itself by pointing out that KBS-2 was an entertainment channel with a different role from KBS-1, which deals more in hard news. I guess it would be a cheap shot for me to point out that KBS president Jung Yun-joo was formerly the chief editorial writer for the Hankyoreh?

UPDATE 4: Take that, you criminal-bred Aussie lackies of American imperialism! Kim Myong-chol, the freakshow who now calls himself the unofficial spokesman of the North Korean embassy in Canberra, apparently reminded the Australian government that North Korea could use its missiles and nuclear warheads to attack targets in Australia. Kim, supposedly speaking for Pyongyang, was reacting to his four-bottle soju lunch the Australian government’s condemnation of North Korea’s missile tests. Just to note, this isn’t the first time Kim Myong-chol has threatened the Lucky Country with nuclear armageddon.

UPDATE 5: U.S. broadcaster NBC reports that North Korea is readying another Taepodong 2 for launch.  Citing unnamed U.S. officials, the station said the missile was in its final assembly stage, but has yet to be put on a launch pad.  South Korean military officials, however, are saying they’ve yet to see signs North Korea is preparing to launch another Taepodong 2.  Their analysis of satellite photos turned up no signs of launch preparations near the North Korean launch facility at Musudan-ni, Hamkyongbuk-do, from where North Korea launched yesterday’s Taepodong (Marmot’s note: earlier reports were that the North Koreans didn’t use the Musudan-ni site.  Right now, I have no idea what’s what).  They also said they’ve yet to detect transportation vehicles or other signs that the North Koreans have entered to final assembly stage on a Taepodong.  They noted, however, that because Scud and Rodong missiles are mobile, the North could fire them off at any time.