The Lessons of Kwangmyongsong-3: Satellite Lauch, Missile Test, Leadership Badge or Bargaining Chip?

BY BEN HABIB. The North’s Kwangmyongsong-3 rocket launch is likely to yield important insights in three areas of interest to North Korea watchers. First, the relative success of North Korea’s rocket launch is likely to yield insights into the operability of the North’s overall nuclear weapons capability and specifically its ability to deliver a nuclear payload to targets at distances beyond 1,000 kilometres. Second, it would appear to fit with a longer trend of provocations dating back to the Cheonan incident in 2010 that have been linked to the legitimisation of Kim Jong-un’s leadership credentials. Finally, with the potential restart of negotiations with Washington in the offing, the launch indicates that coercive bargaining is likely to remain Pyongyang’s modus operandi in international negotiations under the new leadership.

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