Analysts say launch gives North Korea a new bargaining chip

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea's new rocket launch gives the communist country another bargaining chip in negotiations over dismantling its nuclear weapons program even if the flight wasn't completely successful, analysts said Monday.

Even with suspected problems in separating the second and third stages, the rocket flew twice as far as any missile the North previously launched. That range falls far short of U.S. territory, but neighbors are concerned by the expanded reach of a regime that claims to have atomic bombs.

President Barack Obama and other world leaders called Sunday's launch a provocation that cannot go unanswered, but the U.N. Security Council was so divided it didn't even issue a preliminary statement of condemnation.

Diplomats privy to continuing talks in New York said China, Russia, Libya and Vietnam voiced concerns about further alienating and destabilizing North Korea. China, the North's closest ally, and Russia hold veto power as permanent members and could water down any response.

Analysts said Security Council sanctions imposed after the North's underground nuclear test explosion in 2006 that barred Pyongyang from working on ballistic missiles appeared to have had little effect because some countries showed no inclination to impose them.

North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency claimed again Monday that the rocket put an experimental communications satellite into orbit, while the United States and others suspected the test was a cover for improving technology for a long-range military missile.

U.S. and South Korean officials said the entire rocket, including whatever payload it carried, ended up in the ocean. South Korea said the second stage splashed down about 1,900 miles from the launch site.

But John Bolton, a former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. and ex-U.S. undersecretary of state in charge of the North Korean nuclear dossier, said the launch was still cause for concern.

"This is far from a failure. Japan is now clearly in range," he said.

Analysts say launch gives North Korea a new bargaining chip 04/06/09 [Last modified: Monday, April 6, 2009 10:02pm]

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