Lighten Up, America -- It's Your Birthday!
- Everybody loves to watch fireworks.
- On July 4th, in cities and towns all across the U.S., elaborate fireworks displays are common.
- For a number of weeks, North Korean troops have been busy at that country’s missile launch areas apparently readying a Taepo Dong II missile.
- The U.S. has stationed naval ships off the coast of North Korea to monitor any missile launch and – should a missile’s trajectory take it within the engagement window of an anti-missile missile – try to shoot it down.
Add the accident of timing that saw the space shuttle launched on July 4th – the first time in NASA’s history – after two postponements, and the frequent comments from reporters on the appropriateness of “shuttle fireworks,” and Kim Jong Il’s decision to fire some of North Korea’s missiles is not so sinister.
The U.S. and Japan had warned North Korea that there would be adverse consequences if it went ahead and fired the Taepo Dong II. Hints had been dropped repeatedly that the U.S. might try to destroy the missile in its ascent phase or activate the rudimentary Missile Defense system installed in Alaska and at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
This would explain why six missiles were launched. Kim might have decided to test Bush’s reactions. The first missile would be the “wake-up” event; the second to absorb any attempt to destroy a North Korean missile in flight; the third – if there was no U.S. response – to actually do what Pyongyang wanted, which is to refocus the U.S. and the other four participants in the Six-Party talks on moving the discussions forward.
However, less than 40 seconds into its flight, the Taepo Dong failed. Speculation is that the first stage may not have separated from the upper stages or the second stage failed to ignite. Clearly, North Korea is in no position to be the imminent threat described by the administration. Their missiles are years away from posing any threat.
And that may explain the fourth, fifth, and sixth missiles, which were launched much later than the relatively time-sequenced first three. It was a backward wave of the hand as if to say
“Sorry the real show failed. Anyway, Happy July 4th America!”