Friday, April 13, 2012

North Korea's Missile: (conspiracy) theories

So the North Koreans launched a missile before dozens of foreign journalists to prove Kim Jong-Un was a real man. To cut a long story short, it didn't get very far. The phallic jokes just write themselves. Kim couldn't get it up. Missile flops on launch. Premature explosion.

Ok, I'll stop. So what really happened? There are three probable answers. And I'll list out probable outcomes. I should say - these scenarios are based entirely on what I've read so far about the incident. They contain several assumptions.

1. A genuine failure It is after all North Korea -  a poor country with severe arms control and technology import restrictions enforced on it. Yes, they have nuclear weapons. But remember, even the nuclear tests they conducted yielded less than expected according to some assessments.

2. Sabotage/ Knocked out by enemy missile It's no secret that the West and neighbouring countries would want the test to fail. This would strike a double blow. It would humiliate the new North Korean leader just as he tries to establish himself and it would set back the country's missile program.
Sabotaging the missile itself would be tough, but not impossible. The South Koreans and Japanese would presumably have assets on the ground who could achieve this. More likely, though is the possibility that the missile was shot out of the sky by another missile. This could have been launched by an aircraft, a ship or by land-based systems.

3. Deliberate failure or in other words, a North Korean deliberately caused the test to fail in order to fix/ shame someone else within the regime.

1. Assuming the test was a genuine failure, Pyongyang may try to save face and re-flex its muscles. Worryingly, this could take the shape of another missile test or worse, a nuclear weapons test.

2. Assuming the missile was sabotaged or knocked out, Pyongyang may respond violently, like it did shortly before Kim Jong Il died by shelling the South. Or it may choose to accept that it has worked itself in a corner and return to talks. It could also respond with a follow-up test in an attempt to prove it still has what it takes despite efforts by its enemies to corner it.

3. Assuming an extremely unlikely deliberate failure, it depends on which faction within Pyongyang caused it. Assuming Kim Jong-Un secretly sabotaged his own coming out party, he may use it as an excuse to purge his regime of potential rebels, and surround himself with loyalists. Assuming it was the rebels who sabotaged the missile, they may use it as an excuse to oust Kim Jong-Un as an incapable and immature leader, unfit to carry on his father's legacy.

The truth lies somewhere on this page. Only time will tell what really happened.


  1. Another possible explanation feeds the conspiracy theorist in me - intentional failure / self-destruct following an otherwise successful launch to give the appearance of failure or inability to harness the capabilities that they ACTUALLY DO have. We keep making fun of their sub-par nuclear development, but let's be serious... a bunch of Oriental types can't advance technologies to the point of a successful missile program. Please!!! They win every math and science competition out there, but fail this one?

    I think not. Well played, N. Korea. Well played.

  2. I agree with Stephen Tidwell. Surely in a dictatorship like North Korea any actual failure would be censored. This was probably a deliberate attempt to undermine the propaganda coming from Washington that they are a threat. Next time they try telling us North Korea is a threat know one will pay any attention. Smart move.

  3. Also plausible. This way, they know they have the capability to launch, but don't allow Western Propaganda of a "nuclear North Korea" to dictate their moves.

    The one problem with this is the Dr Strangelove paradox. If I have a Doomsday device, is the world more stable knowing I have it or not knowing I have it.


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