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North Korea Launches Long-Range Missile. Aired 7:45-8p ET

Aired February 6, 2016 - 19:45   ET


[19:45:25] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

JONATHAN MANN, CNN HOST: I'm Jonathan Mann with this news just in to CNN: North Korea has launched a long-range missile into space. Our Paula Hancocks is in South Korea with the latest. What can you tell us?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT, via satellite: Well, Jon, we just got confirmation from the South Korean Defense Ministry, they called it a

missile. Of course the North Koreans call it a satellite launch, but they have carried out this satellite launch as they had said they would. They gave a window of the 7th to the 14th of February here in Korea. It is the 7th. It's about 9:45 in the morning here in Seoul. We don't have details at this point of what time exactly they did it or how far it went, whether it was successful or not. But the fact that they have carried out this satellite launch in the face of such international condemnation is unfortunately not very surprising.

We had Washington, Seoul, Tokyo, all the countries trying to convince Pyongyang not to go ahead with this satellite launch, including Beijing, which is one of the very few allies that North Korea actually has, and the reason for that is because the countries I've mentioned and many more, believe that this is not a peaceful satellite launch, as claimed by North Korea. They believe that it is a front, a cover, for a long-range ballistic missile test. The reason for that is the rocket used to launch a satellite would be essentially the same rocket that you could launch a nuclear warhead on. So the international condemnation will come flooding in. Sanctions will be inevitable and would be talked about. But, North Korea, in the face of all that criticism, has gone ahead with this satellite launch. Jon?

MANN: The timing is particular and not particularly comforting. It was just a few weeks ago that North Korea conducted a nuclear test. Are these two related?

HANCOCKS: They could well be. That was back on January 6th, that nuclear test you're referring to. Quite frankly, the national community has not yet carried out and agreed on U.N. sanctions against that action. They say that violates many U.N. Security Council resolutions but there has not been consensus. Washington and Beijing do not agree on how strong those U.N. sanctions should be; so at this point there is a school of thought here that Pyongyang may be thinking why not go ahead with this rocket launch, this satellite launch, as we're in trouble anyway so we may only have one set of sanctions against us. Certainly this is going to strengthen Washington's call and South Korea's call for strong and strict and comprehensive sanctions against North Korea.

Beijing says it favors dialogue and doesn't particularly want strong sanctions. It may be losing its argument though now that North Korea has once again ignored resolutions, ignored international criticism and condemnation and gone ahead and done what it wanted to do. Jon?

MANN: Now, once again, the North is calling this the launch of a satellite. South Korea, the United States, other neighboring nations have been concerned that it was in fact we long-range missile that could, in theory, make it possible to deliver a nuclear device. Is there any clear idea of when we'll find out what exactly the North Koreans put up?

HANCOCKS: Well, it will have been likely a satellite. They've done this in the past back in December 2012 was the first time really he had they had done it successfully and other countries outside of North Korea confirmed they had put something into space. They claimed it was a satellite. They claim it is working. we don't know for sure if that is the case. They would have been trying to put up a satellite into space. There are benefits for North Korea. They insist that it is peaceful. If it were peaceful, if it was just a satellite, it would be used for broadcasting, for weather forecasting, mapping, of course, intelligence gathering which would be very useful to North Korea. But the fact is, outside North Korea, very few [19:50:01] people believe it is simply peaceful, because the same technology used to put this satellite into space could be used to put a warhead on top and deliver a very dangerous payload halfway across the world.

So it's the intercontinental ballistic missile technology that the world is worried about. It's this technology that effectively North Korea can test through a satellite launch. It is the same technology, the same rocket that would be used in either way. Jon?

MANN: Just a moment ago we showed our viewers some information about the rocket. It's an extraordinary piece of technology. I don't know if we'll have that full screen. It's technology coming from a country that can barely, if ever, feed its own people. There you see. A rocket with a range of 10,000 kilometers, and they've been working on it for years. It was first successfully launched in December 2012. And, once again, as Paula Hancocks was telling us, they said they put a satellite into orbit. Once again, Paula is telling us they may have put a satellite into orbit this time.

But I've got a much more basic question for you, North Korea is a famously impoverished country. Are they buying this technology from someone else? Are they selling it to someone else? Or is this purely a North Korean project?

HANCOCKS: The North Korean leader, Kim Jong-Un, has put a premium on the space program. He inherited it from his father, the late Kim Jong-Il and he is pumping billions of dollars into this program. It is very important to him. He mentions it in many of his speeches, his new year speeches. He has updated the launch site in Soje, which is where this satellite launch would have taken place. He has built and opened a new satellite control center and he's now attempted three satellite launches in four years. He has put a premium on this space program, and, of course, the money that is going into this is being diverted from where it's really need, which is feeding his people; but for Kim Jong-Un the priority is this space program.

So certainly we know that they have a number of scientists on site able to work on this. So it's not just they're bringing technology from the outside. It is a domestic interest as well. The fact that they are progressing with this space program internally, within North Korea.

CNN in a trip last September was able to meet some of those scientists. They were incredibly proud of what they were doing. They rejected the rest of the world's accusations, that it was a front for a missile test, saying they were proud of what they were doing and this is a very prestigious space program which, quite frankly, Kim Jong-Un would rather put his money towards than to feeding his people.

MANN: Now South Korea, Japan, other nations in the region, are so accustomed to noise and bluster from North Korea, sometimes South Koreans are calmer about events there than people much further away. How nervous are they about this launch?

HANCOCKS: If you went out on to the street at the moment, you would not know the launch had happened. Quite frankly there aren't many people out on the street. This is Lunar New Year here in South Korea. For the next Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, next three days, most ministries would have been shut. Of course they're opening now thanks to North Korea, but many offices, in fact most offices will be shut. Everybody is celebrating the Lunar New Year. It's at a very important holiday here.

So quite frankly I think most people will notice that it has happened but they wouldn't be particularly concerned because South Koreans have been living with this threat for decades, since the 1950s, 1953, the end of the Korean war, when the Koreas were separated. Since then they have been at war. They are still technically at war.

There was never a peace treaty that was signed by the two Koreas. So they really do take things in their stride. Certainly those in power will be very concerned. They will know that even if the satellite launch was not successful, Kim Jong-Un scientists are still learning something from it and they've learned something from each and every satellite launched and, of course, their technology will be improving every time they do something like this. So there is a concern in the halls of power. As you say, quite often there's more concern the further away you get from Korea, as people here have been living with this threat hanging over them for decades. Jon?

MANN: Once again, if you're just joining us, South Korea's Defense Ministry is confirming that North Korea has launched a long-range missile. Our Paula Hancocks is reporting live. It is presumably a satellite that's gone up, though we don't exactly know, but even a satellite, Paula is telling us, is reason enough for concern in South Korea and elsewhere.

So what happens now? Will there be any communication between the North and the South? will we expect an announcement from the North explaining what happened and what this satellite is destined to are? Or in the enigmatic North, is this just an event we'll never really learn fully about ever?

HANCOCKS: Well North Korea has said this is peaceful. They have, according to the South Korean Defense Ministry, they've launch this satellite which [19:55:12] much of the west sees as a veiled missile test. North Korea will want to announce this. Kim Jong-Un, if it is successful, of course, will want to boast about it. He will want to talk, not only to his people and show the great achievement that he has accomplished, but also to the rest of the world to show exactly what his capability is. there is, of course, that sense of deterrent that North Korea wants. They want the rest of the world to think they have more capability than they do, believing that that means they are safe and there won't be any attempts at regime change. This is the way that the North Korean regime thinks; but quite frankly, if this is successful, Kim Jong-Un will be extremely proud of it. He will be very pleased that this has happened whether or not there is an undertone of this being a missile test; whether or not it is simply peaceful, which much of the world does not believe it is, Kim Jong-Un will want to announce it and he will want to boast about it.

MANN: How highly regarded is North Korea's technology? I mean, you're talking about whether this will be a success. Is a success by North Korean standards impressive to the rest of the world? Or is this primitive technology that's succeeding in putting something up there without being a terribly big threat to North Korea's neighbors?

HANCOCKS: This certainly isn't primitive technology. This has been in the works for a couple of decades now. This has been tested back in 1998. it was tested in 2009, two tests in 2012, the first one, remember when all of the international media was invited. That one wasn't successful but another one they tried later in December was successful. So this is not primitive technology. This is technology they are learning something from every single time they carry out these launches. They have short-range missiles which is they often test. They have medium-rank missiles. This is a long-range rocket which, of course, with a satellite on top, it is a rocket. it is peaceful. You put a nuclear warhead on top, or any kind of warhead, it's a missile and becomes a very dangerous weapon.

The fact is that many people within the military here in South Korea, in Japan, in Washington, they're very concerned with this technology that North Korea has. It is by no means a primitive technology. It can have an impact and it can do damage. Of course, the question that everybody has at this point is, can North Korea militarize a nuclear weapon? Can they put a nuclear weapon on the top of one of these long-range rockets and then send it around the world, whether it would be mainland U.S., whether it would be the U.S. Hawaii or somewhere a lot closer? But for many years now, the South Koreans and the Japanese have known full well that North Korea has the technology to hit them. They have the rockets that can hit them; but of course, that goes the other way as well. Remember, there's 28,000 U.S. troops here as well as the South Korean military. So that sense of both sides have this capability, at this point, has kept any war at bay. North Korea wants the world to believe that they have more than they actually have so that there is a sense of deterrent. MANN: Paula Hancocks with us from Seoul. Paula, I'm going to ask you to stay with us. CNN's Global Affairs Correspondent Elise Labott, is reporting that U.S. authorities are tracking whatever it is the North has launched. She joins us now on the line. what can you tell us?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jonathan, we're hearing from U.S. officials in the Administration and a senior defense official telling us they can confirm the launch and based on the trajectory as the U.S. and its allies are tracking it, they don't believe it poses a threat to the United States. I mean, obviously the big question right now is how successful was this launch, what they're calling a satellite, this missile launch? I mean, everyone will have to track it to see how far it goes but I think any launch of this range, of this long-range missile, is a concern to the United States and its allies, because every time North Korea makes a launch of this size, it is perfecting that capability. As Paula was saying, it's perfecting its capability on the long-range rockets. It's perfecting its capability on miniaturizing and weaponizing its nuclear weapons. So eventually the concern is that North Korea is going to be able to fit a nuclear warhead on a long-range missile and not just, obviously, hit its neighbors like japan and South Korea but eventually reach the united states. That's why the missiles of this range are of so much concern to the U.S., Jon.

MANN: CNN Global Affairs Correspondent Elise Labott; I'm going to ask you to stay with us. we go to Christopher hill, the former U.S. Ambassador to South Korea. Ambassador, thank so much for talking with us. What do you make of this?

CHRISTOPHER HILL, FORMER US AMBASSADOR, SOUTH KOREA, via telephone: Well, you know, I think despite all the talk about whether it's a North Korean provocation, et cetera, what I really think it's been is a nuclear testing program. They've been testing nuclear weapons and they're testing the delivery system. So I think we need to understand this in that context.