North Korea launched a long-range rocket on April 13 to mark the birthday of deceased Eternal President Kim Il-Sung. However, the craft failed to leave the atmosphere and dropped off into the Pacific Ocean. Global & International Studies profes- sor Mark Juergensmeyer spoke with the Daily Nexus about the region’s current political cli- mate.
Although North Korean government officials said the rocket was designed to deliver a weather satellite into orbit, aid program arranged on the condition that the nation cease all nuclear and missile testing.
According to Juergensmeyer, North Korea began resort- ing to nuclear armament fol- lowing President Bush’s 2009 speech, which included the country as a member of his “axis of evil.”
“This is what happened last time during the George W. Bush administration,” Juergensmeyer said in an email. “We reneged from our deal to provide peace- ful nuclear energy and they said we’re the ones that broke off the commitment. And that’s when they started testing nuclear devices.”
Juergensmeyer said the two nations’ tense relationship dates back to their interactions during the Korean War.
“It’s true that the North Koreans started the war but what they remem- ber is the ability of the American air force to flatten Pyongyang like a pancake,” Juergensmeyer said. “I spent ten days in North Korea, including Pyongyang, the capital, and then various places in the countryside and I talked with a lot of govern- ment officials. One of the things that impressed me was how paranoid they were about the American ability to destroy them.” Although critics perceive North
Korea’s construction of a long-range missile as an unwarranted act of mil- itarization, Juergensmeyer said the country likely views its actions as a vital self-defense measure.
“What seems to us like North Korean warmongering they regard as sensible defensive techniques and what we think of as our own appropriate military preparedness (like conducting Navy tests off their shores) are regarded by North Korea as provocative,” Juergensmeyer said. “Their only purpose in building a nuclear weapon is to defend them- selves against the United States; and the only reason they would want to do it is if we scare the crap out of them.