The International Crisis Group tells us “not to overreact”:http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=6030&l=1 to North Korea’s space launch, saying this would “promote hardliners in Pyongyang at a time when the North is facing strains over succession issues.”
bq. If the missile launch goes forward, domestic political pressures, particularly in the U.S. and Japan, will push for strong punitive measures. A tough response such as using missile defences against the rocket might please domestic constituencies but history has shown that pressure alone is very unlikely to influence Pyongyang’s behaviour in a positive way. It would likely result in the demise of the talks to end North Korea’s nuclear program and also worsen tensions on the Korean peninsula and promote hardliners in Pyongyang at a time when the North is facing strains over succession issues. In the worst case, it could risk a war with potentially devastating damage to South Korea, Japan and the world economy.
Secretary of Defense Bob Gates has got it covered:
WALLACE: The commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific, Admiral Keating, says that we are, quote, “fully prepared to shoot down this missile.”
Are there any circumstances under which we will do that?
GATES: I think if we had an aberrant missile, one that was headed for Hawaii – that looked like it was headed for Hawaii or something like that, we might consider it. But I don’t think we have any plans to do anything like that at this point.
WALLACE: What if it were headed for the West Coast, for Alaska?
GATES: Well, we – I don’t think we believe this missile can do that.
WALLACE: And what about the Japanese? Obviously, they have some of our technology. Do we believe they’re going to prepare to shoot this down?
GATES: Well, again, based on what I read in the newspapers, what the Japanese are saying is that the – if that missile fails and it looks like it’s going to drop debris on Japan, that they might take some action.
WALLACE: Is there – you’re basically discussing this, Mr. Secretary, as if it’s going to happen.
GATES: The launch?
GATES: I think it probably will.
WALLACE: And there’s nothing we can do about it?
WALLACE: And what does that say to you?
GATES: Well, I would say we’re not prepared to do anything about it.
See the “whole thing”:http://www.defenselink.mil/transcripts/transcript.aspx?transcriptid=4390, if you like.
“Daniel Pinkston”:http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=5063&l=1 is ICG’s man in Seoul.
[Update: Yes, I’ve gotten tired of pointing out that “we can’t employ missile defenses against the rocket, per se”:http://www.totalwonkerr.net/1912/shooting-at-kwangmyongsong-2, only against its payload, or a falling rocket stage.]