North Korea announced on Sunday that "a technical glitch" is forcing it to extend the window for a planned rocket launch by one week until Dec. 29. It is rare for the North to announce a setback in such grand plans.
The U.S. State Department has already warned North Korea that it would pursue UN Security Council sanctions in conjunction with South Korea and Japan if it launches the rocket, which is widely seen as a cover to test long-range missile technology
Washington has also discussed with Seoul and Tokyo the possibility of freezing the North's overseas bank accounts. China also warned Pyongyang on Friday to act "cautiously." China's new leadership is feeling the pressure of international scrutiny over its ability to rein in North Korea. But the delay of the launch may really be due to a technical glitch as it claims, and not to international pressure.
Japan has stationed Patriot missiles in seven locations including Tokyo, even though it knows the rocket will be fired toward the East China Sea via the West Sea. Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has ordered the military to shoot down the rocket should it go off the course and enter Japanese air space. Ahead of general elections on Sunday, all of Japan's political groups have lurched to the right, demanding a revision of the country's pacifist constitution. If the rocket strays into Japanese air space, Japan may veer even further to the right.
U.S. President Barack Obama said in Burma last month that Washington would offer aid if the North scraps its nuclear program. He was warning Pyongyang not to repeat the mistakes it made by slapping down the hand the U.S. extended twice but instead went ahead with a long-range missile launch in April this year and launched a missile and conducted its second nuclear test in 2009.
Presidential hopefuls Moon Jae-in and Park Geun-hye here say they want to talk to North Korea if they are elected, but this will not be easy if the North launches the rocket.
The world is not going to urge the North much longer to sit down for talks every time it fires a missile or conducts a nuclear test. Its threats will only end up justifying Japan's ambition to rearm itself and cause more international sanctions. This may be the last chance North Korea has of rejoining the international community. The regime must realize that its time is running out.