Friday, December 14, 2012

Who to believe? Who to believe?

Jean Lee of AP's Pyongyang Bureau

I've slightly mocked the over-seriousness of the reaction to North Korea's latest satellite-on-a-missile launch or nuclear detonation down in some mine, either of which would only really be a problem if they can actually succeed. And even then it's not entirely clear how much more of a rogue state they can become (the evildoers who would want their missiles already have other potential sellers and it would be the nukes the Norks already supposedly have that would be the true danger).

But what's also somewhat amusing (to me, anyway, but I'm easily amused) is how the media is reacting to it. Last night, I went to bed reading an Associated Press piece in the Orange County Register saying that South Korea has given a tentative bill of good health to the satellite that is orbiting Earth and most likely broadcasting the Great Leader's favorite revolutionary movies to any alien spaceship passing by:
A satellite North Korea launched aboard a long-range rocket is orbiting normally, South Korea said Thursday, following a defiant liftoff that drew a wave of international condemnation.

Washington and its allies are pushing for punishment over the launch they say is nothing but a test of banned ballistic missile technology.

The launch of the three-stage rocket — similar in design to a model capable of carrying a nuclear-tipped warhead as far as California — raises the stakes in the international standoff over North Korea's expanding atomic arsenal. As Pyongyang refines its technology, its next step may be conducting its third nuclear test, experts warn.

South Korea's Defense Ministry said the satellite launched by the rocket is orbiting normally at a speed of 7.6 kilometers (4.7 miles) per second, though it's not known what mission it is performing. North Korean space officials say the satellite would be used to study crops and weather patterns.

Defense Ministry Spokesman Kim Min-seok said it usually takes about two weeks to determine whether a satellite works succesfully after liftoff. He cited data from the North American Aerospace Defense Command.
Okay, so I made up the part about ET (or did I?). But AP themselves seem to be caught up in their own happy ending. Granted that the article does state that the Kwangmyŏng-3 satellite is not out of the space woods yet, but it's a generally hunky-dory piece, authored by the AP's man in Pyongyang, Jean Lee, about whom there are some serious questions regarding a quid pro quo between the AP and DPRK trading access for good press with a sprinkle of propagandizing.

Contrast it with the NBC News take:
The object that North Korea sent into space on Wednesday appears to be “tumbling out of control” as it orbits the earth, U.S. officials told NBC News.

The officials said that it is indeed some kind of space vehicle, but they still haven’t been able to determine exactly what the satellite is supposed to do.

In a statement, the White House said the rocket launch was a highly provocative act that threatens regional security and violates U.N. resolutions.

The United Nations Security Council on Wednesday condemned the launch, calling it a "clear violation" of U.N. resolutions. A spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he "deplores" the launch.
I remember when "provocative" meant sexy. Missiles shot in the air, not provocative to me. Something explosive happening deep in a hole... well maybe.

Anyhoo, NBC News also reports that China is upset:
North Korea had warned of a possible delay to the launch for "technical reasons," although there was speculation that the real reason was political, that China was applying pressure behind the scenes. After all, Beijing had expressed "deep concern" over the test, and that is pretty strong for China, the North's closest diplomatic and economic ally.

So Wednesday's test would seem to be an extraordinary snub to China, when it might be assumed that North Korea's new young leader, Kim Jong Un, would want to get off on a good footing with China's new Communist Party chief, Xi Jinping.

North Korea watchers have been speculating that Kim is angling for an early audience with Xi, which so far has been denied.

Launching a rocket in defiance of Beijing would hardly seem a great way of achieving it.

Beijing's initial response was a masterful piece of diplomatic contortionism -- expressing "regret" and calling on Pyongyang to abide by U.N. Security Council resolutions, but at the same time making clear that China isn't about to back sanctions against the North.

A Foreign Ministry spokesman called for a resumption of six-party talks, even though these have been widely discredited, and called for "all sides" to act calmly.

There was anger, dismay and some surprise as North Korea launched a rocket in defiance of its critics abroad. NBC's Ian Williams reports from Beijing.

International talks are a big favorite of Beijing, which likes the role of diplomatic ringmaster.
More than being ringmaster, Beijing loves its ring of satellite states and buffer territories: Tibet, Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia, and North Korea. Still, maybe it's time for China to consider the Kushibo Plan and help us turn the lights out on the Kim Dynasty regime. Wise up, already, they are slipping from your control, PRC leaders, and it's high time you realize that.

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