Meanwhile, experts were monitoring how high and how far the rocket traveled to compare the measures to those of previous tests of what the world believes were attempts by the North Koreans to develop intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) in 2006 and 2009.
“The last test in 2009, the range was about [2,360 miles],” said Baek Seung-joo of the Korea Institute of Defense Analysis (KIDA). “When [North Korea] developed the Taepodong missile, it wanted a range of [4,160 miles]. To fit the category of an ICBM, the range should be at least [3,400 miles], so North Korea will assess success or failure based on range.”
The firing was part of commemorations to mark the 100th birthday of Kim Il-sung, who died in 1994. His grandson, Kim Jong-un, on Wednesday officially was named “first secretary” of the North Korean Workers Party; his father, Kim Jong-il, who died in December, remains “eternal general secretary” of the party.
The North’s rubber-stamp parliament, the Supreme People’s Assembly, was expected to convene Friday.
North Korea is now believed to have about six nuclear devices, though it has not yet managed to compress its fissile materials into a warhead.
“Although the U.S. does not recognize Pakistan as a nuclear state, Pakistan has secured a number of concessions from the U.S.,” said Mr. Baek. “North Korea wants a similar pass. It is widely assumed for a nation to be a nuclear power it needs to conduct three [to] four nuclear tests. North Korean scholars show great interest in the Pakistan model.”
Other experts warned that North Korea will never give up its existing deterrent.
“They might be willing to freeze existing programs, but will keep a certain amount of nuclear devices — enough for the U.S. to pay attention to their demands, and to ensure that the U.S. does not attack them,” said Andrei Lankov, a North Korea expert at Seoul’s Kookmin University.
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