Tag Archives: North Korea – Philippine bilateral relations

Analyzing Philippines’ North Korea rocket launch problem

North Korea’s much hyped rocket launch ended in embarrassment earlier today, as it “broke apart before escaping the earth’s atmosphere and fell into the sea.” But even if the launch is an utter failure, the isolated East Asian nation will have to face more punitive actions from different countries around the world for pushing through with this activity.

When North Korea’s “dear leader” Kim Jong Il died suddenly last December, there were hopes that his son and designated successor Kim Jong Un would provide the reclusive state with a fresh start and “some hope of stability.” In an editorial a few days after Kim Jong Un began his reign, American newspaper Christian Science Monitor (CSM) speculated that he might be not “as heartless as his father was about the fact that a quarter of (North Koreans) are near starvation.”

Instead of pursuing further militarization, the younger Kim may “be more concerned about his country’s rising dependence on trade with China,” CSM added. For his part, British foreign minister William Hague said: “This could be a turning point for North Korea. We hope that their new leadership will recognise that engagement with the international community offers the best prospect of improving the lives of ordinary North Korean people.”

Kim Jong Un, said to be in his late 20s, is the new supreme leader of North Korea

Fast forward to April 2012. The initial optimism toward the younger Kim’s leadership priorities must have dissipated by now. Instead of making his country, formally known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, veer away from its long-held reputation as a hermit state, the new NoKor leader decided to take several steps backward.

This week, a 90-ton Unha-3 rocket (known as Kwangmyongsong-3) will be launched in Pyongan, North Korea. This will be part of the nation’s festivities in commemoration of the 100th birth anniversary of its founder Kim Il Sung. And while the rogue East Asian country is insisting that it is just a weather satellite, its neighbors as well as other countries around the world are apparently not convinced. Hillary Clinton, the United States Secretary of State, called this move “a direct threat to regional security.”

Had the missile launch not ended in failure, rocket debris may have reached Philippine waters (photo from NDRRMC)

One country which is obviously taking this rocket launch seriously is the Philippines. In an 8-page update released last April 4, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council noted that although Unha is classified as a space launch vehicle, “it is essentially a Taepodong missile, which is being developed as a delivery system for weapons of mass destruction.” The exact timing of the missile launch is unknown, but the national government will be implementing the following as precautionary measures:

1. A stay-indoors policy for those living in Luzon from April 12 to 16, particularly from 6AM to 12 PM (this order is unrealistic, to say the least)

2. A “No Fly Zone” in the flight path of the missile (as suggested by the Civil Aviation Authority and the Philippine Air Force)

3. A “No Sail Zone” policy in the areas likely to be affected – to be implemented by the Maritime Industry Authority, the Philippine Coast Guard, and the Philippine Navy

4. A “No Fishing Zone” (through the Department of Interior and Local Government) in areas where debris of the rocket are likely to fall

North Korea’s erratic behavior since the Korean War-era is one of the main reasons why mandatory military service continues to be a constitutional duty for all able-bodied South Korean males. This explains why well-known actors such as Lee Dong Wook (My Girl), Hyun Bin (My Name Is Kim Sam Soon), and Lee Dong-gun (Lovers in Paris) all had to take a two-year hiatus from their careers to fulfill this obligation. Last October, 29-year-old pop sensation Rain (Jung Ji-hoon) began his 21-month army duty as well.

Lee Dong Wook had to put his acting career on hold for two years to fulfill his military service

What does this mean for Filipinos? It is essential to note that Philippines maintain a diplomatic relationship with North Korea through its embassy in Beijing, China. North Korea, meanwhile, is represented by a non-resident envoy based in Thailand. The Philippine Daily Inquirer reported last January 2011 that there are only eight Filipinos in NoKor, “all of whom are connected with United Nations agencies, international non-government organizations, and a foreign tobacco company.” The same news item added that there were no North Koreans “legally staying in the country” although unnamed sources from the Bureau of Immigrations claimed that they had “blended” with the local South Korean community.

Amidst all the hysteria surrounding the Aquino government’s reaction to NoKor’s upcoming missile launch, Philippine Star columnist Alex Magno, also a political science professor at the University of the Philippines, reminded Filipinos that “North Korea is not going to attack” and that the country is “merely in danger of catching some of the debris rockets discard as they move out to space.” He likened NoKor to a village fool whose only way to catch attention is to “act like mad dogs.”

For his part, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile told that the government should leave the business of dealing with North Korea to “the big boys,” referring to United States, Japan, and South Korea. Enrile added that although the Philippines would not be happy to have a neighbor fire a missile in its direction, the country does not have any capability to prevent it. “What can we explode, fireworks?” he sarcastically asked. Events this morning show that indeed, an impoverished country like North Korea can only produce dumb missiles (Magno is right on this one), but still, there is nothing wrong with erring on the side of caution.

Must-reads:

North Korea’s Planned Rocket Launch Has SE Asia on Edge – from ABC News (US)

Philippines has 3 hours to react after North Korea rocket launch – from Philippine Daily Inquirer

Pinoys can sue North Korea for damages from rocket launch – from GMA News Online

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