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‘N.K. told U.S. about satellite plan last year’

Expert says North’s inconsistency shows Kim Jong-un’s immature diplomacy

North Korea had notified the U.S. about its plan to launch a satellite using long-range missile technology last year, days before the death of its leader Kim Jong-il, multiple news reports from Washington said Wednesday.

Pyongyang had contacted Washington through civilian channels three days before Kim died on Dec. 17 and said it would launch a satellite in commemoration of the 100th year of its late founder Kim Il-sung’s birth.

After bilateral civilian contacts in New York, U.S. administration officials made it clear to the North that a satellite launch would directly violate U.N. Security Council Resolution 1874, news reports said.

The U.S. and the North held a third round of bilateral talks in Beijing last month which led to the Feb. 29 agreement on U.S. food aid in return for the North freezing nuclear facilities and a moratorium on long-range missile testing.

In the bilateral talks, Glyn Davies, U.S. special envoy to North Korea, warned Kim Kye-gwan, the North’s first vice foreign minister, that a missile test for any purposes would breach their bilateral agreements, Yonhap News said quoting an unnamed source.

However, it has not been reported why the North still announced its satellite launch plan, even after it reached an agreement with the U.S. on Feb. 29.

An expert said the North’s behavior came out of immaturity, rather than any complicated strategy.

Cheong Seong-chang, a North Korea analyst at the Sejong Institute in Seoul, said the North’s decision to launch a satellite after its deal with the U.S. shows new leader Kim Jong-un’s immature diplomacy.

“If North Korea wanted something more effective, the agreement should have come later than the announcement of the satellite launch,” Cheong told The Korea Herald, adding that he agreed with the view that North Korea had thought about launching Kwangmyongsong-3 a long time ago.

“The decision dealt a heavy blow to the credibility of the Kim Jong-un regime. The North will not have much room to maneuver in future negotiations with the U.S. and it will not be able to expect nutritional assistance either,” he said.

Such a miscalculation could appear in the transitional period of a new regime, he added.

Despite international pressure from China, Russia, Japan, EU and the U.S. to drop the plan, Pyongyang has repeatedly said it is its sovereign right to launch a satellite into space “for peaceful purposes” and that the launch had nothing to do with the agreement with the U.S.

By Kim Yoon-mi (