Sunday, June 25

North Korea and the zen of interpreting satellite photo images

Pundita has a long-standing tradition of paying little attention to the news during the month running up to the G8 summit. That's because most international headlines during that period fall into the category of Mau-Mauing the G8.

I mention this quirk of mine because I assumed from the size of the diplomatic flap that North Korea had announced they were going to test launch a long-range missile. Finally I decided to actually read the news reports.

It turns out North Korea's government has said nothing, according to a news item in today's Washington Post.
". . . the government in Pyongyang has given no hint whether it will fire a missile," said Jane Coombs, New Zealand's ambassador to the Koreas, who met with top North Korean officials.

"They did not confirm that such a test was imminent ... nor did they deny that such a test was imminent," Coombs said Saturday in Beijing after a four-day trip to Pyongyang.
Meanwhile, according to the same article:
"Intelligence reports say fuel tanks have been seen around a missile at the North's launch site on the northeastern coast, but officials say it is difficult to determine from satellite photos if the rocket is actually being fueled."
Readers who recall last summer at this blog might join me in feeling a China Mystery Pig Disease moment coming on. So all we've got by way of hard evidence of a missile launch is that satellite images show something going on in North Korea around a missile site.

And by interesting coincidence, what might be fuel trucks were hauled to the missile site -- in full view of the spy satellites -- during the runup to the G8 Summit.

If I were Kim Jong-il, I'd want my issues to be dominating the summit, not dumb stuff like African debt relief, squabbles with Russia about energy, and the saber rattling toward Iran.

No, if I were Kimmie my major issue would be trying to convince the US that I need some protection, if I am going to act like a state leader and not the governor of a province in China.

In any case, an implied or real threat of a North Korea long-range test missile launch would be a shot across Japan's bow. And it would be a warning from China to the US not to keep encouraging Japan to take up nuclear arms.

But Pundita prefers not to meditate on the meaning of unclear satellite photo images. I prefer to focus on clear, unequivocal threats to US national security, such as the US Department of State.

Speaking of which, did you see Richard Perle's rag on State in The Washington Post Outlook section today? Here's one Perle salvo from the piece titled Why Did Bush Blink on Iran? (Ask Condi):
"Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) tried two days ago to pass the Iran Freedom Support Act, which would have increased the administration's too-little-too-late support for democracy and human rights in Iran. But the State Department opposed it, arguing that it "runs counter to our efforts. . .it would limit our diplomatic flexibility."*
Say, I have an idea. Why not give State their own patch of land; let them start their own country somewhere, like on the dark side of Pluto?

* For those who have been residing in a cave, Perle is an American Enterprise Institute Fellow and former assistant secretary of defense in the Ronald Reagan adminstration.

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