My guess is the population of rocket scientists (at least North Korean’s version of them) may be a bit smaller today.
For the new North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, his government’s failure to put a satellite into orbit on Friday was a $1 billion humiliation.
The rocket reached only about 94 miles in altitude, far less than 310 miles required to place a satellite into orbit and, as North Korean officials liked to say, present “a gift” to the closest the North Koreans had to a heavenly God: Kim Il-sung.
“It is hard to imagine a greater humiliation,” a North Korea expert, Marcus Noland, said on his blog at the Web site of the Peter G. Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington.
“The North Koreans have managed in a single stroke to not only defy the U.N. Security Council, the United States and even their patron China, but also demonstrate ineptitude,” Mr. Noland said. “Some of the scientists and engineers associated with the launch are likely facing death or the gulag as scapegoats for this embarrassment.”
And I don’t expect their ability to successfully launch a satellite to be enhanced by those who replace them.
There’s a very basic reason for that – even in such hard science areas as rocketry, their rise is based more in loyalty than ability. Additionally, with little to no access to the outside world (except perhaps Iran), they must discover, through trial and error, many of the things more advanced countries learned decades ago.
And, of course when results like what happened yesterday yield “rewards” like death or the gulag, the rush to fill those vacancies and attempt the next launch are probably not among the highest priorities of whatever NoKo would consider its “brightest and best” in the field.
North Korea is a tragic joke. Each time we’re led to believe they’ve developed something that threatens us all and they usually manage instead to embarrass themselves and to leave everyone questioning the hyperbole associated with the build up to their latest failed stunt. They remind me more of a reckless kid with a chemistry set than a serious international threat.
They are certainly a regional threat. Any country with a million man army has to be taken seriously, at least conventionally. But I think we can relax for the time being concerning ICBMs and nukes. All they’re capable of right now is producing a rather expensive fireworks show.
As Zero Hedge said, “North Korea is redefining the term “minuteman”.