Recent U.S. satellite images shared with the Japanese government indicate that North Korea may be preparing to conduct another long-range missile launch in the near future. The images show the movement of similar equipment to what was used for a previous launch in April of this year. While the Pyongyang government claimed it was launching a satellite into orbit at the time, no such announcement have been made recently and analysts say a missile launch could take place in as little as three weeks.
Osamu Fujimura, Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary, stated on Monday that they will be closely observing North Korea’s activities and are increasing their efforts to gather information about any potential missile launches. The test that took place in April was ultimately a failure, as the rocket crashed into the ocean near the Philippines. However, the event was ultimately an embarrassment for the government which resulted in heavy criticism, as the public was already well-informed of the launch by media and the internet long before the Ministry of Defense stated a “flying object” was seen coming out of North Korean airspace.
North Korea’s last missile test resulted in outcry from Japan, which then called on the U.N. to impose stricter sanctions on the communist nation in an effort to persuade it to abandon its nuclear weapons development. Should Pyongyang be planning another test, it would should surely have a negative impact on the recently launched bilateral talks between the Japanese and North Korean governments. The two countries have already met twice in recent weeks to discuss issues of importance, most notably the abductions of Japanese nationals by North Korean spies, but more meetings are still to be arranged.
North Korea is asking Japan to send low-level officials to their first governmental talks in 4 years that are set for next week.
Red Cross officials from Japan and North Korea have been seeking the cooperation of both governments in returning the remains of Japanese who died at the end of World War Two in the north of the Korean Peninsula.
In response, government negotiators from Tokyo and Pyongyang agreed to hold bilateral negotiations in Beijing next Wednesday. Both governments are now making arrangements for procedural matters.
The Japanese are proposing that officials at the director general-level hold talks. They say negotiators should hold the highest-level positions possible.
North Korea had at one point hinted at agreeing to the proposal, but now is claiming that negotiators need not hold positions higher than division chief.
Japanese Foreign Ministry sources say the North Koreans may be trying to raise the level of the talks in stages after waiting to see how Japan responds.
Japanese officials hope to make progress on returning the remains as well as other unresolved bilateral matters, including the North’s past abductions of Japanese nationals.
Death came by way of physical fatigue, as Pyongyang’s official news agency had it. But Kim Jong Il had worn out his welcome again and again on the international stage, claiming attention only by way of nuclear powder puffs and tremors as well as the constant threat of taking out one of the world’s major economic powers, South Korea, the miracle mirror image of his own depressed and dark North Korea.
How he really died — of natural causes or of, well, intervention of a military or conspiratorial sort — will help determine the nature of the successor regime. To have legitimacy, whatever that means for North Korea, the new government will be headed by his son Kim Jong Un, already designated the heir in elaborate if cloudy rituals toward the end of 2010. The fear is that the new leader, who is only in his 20s, may be required to show his teeth and cold-bloodedness as proof that he has come of age. How that manifests itself is the stuff of nightmares for Seoul, Tokyo, Beijing, Moscow and Washington.
Read the rest of the story: Death of Kim Jong Il: Nightmare For China, S. Korea, Japan.