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U.S., South Korean Authorities Detected a North Korean Rocket Launch. Aired 9-10p ET
Aired February 6, 2016 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[21:00:15] JONATHAN MANN, CNN ANCHOR: Exactly 91 minutes ago, U.S. and South Korean authorities detected what they say was a North Korean rocket launch, a missile launch. What Pyongyang says is an attempt to ferry a satellite into space as part of what it calls a peaceful space program.
Ultimately though, the technology could be used to deliver weapons, some day perhaps even nuclear weapons. With every step in North Korea's rocket program and its nuclear program, that day comes closer. Enormous concern in Tokyo, in Seoul and Washington and elsewhere and an emergency session of the U.N. security council has been convened to allow Japan and the United States and South Korea to express their concern and no doubt to press China, North Korea's only really strong ally, to press China into doing something about this apparent progress.
The fate of the rocket still not entirely clear. Some reports from Washington suggest it did get into space. Other reports suggesting the rocket broke apart and portions of it scattered into the waters in and around Asia.
Our Paula Hancocks is in Seoul watching developments. Paula, what can you tell us?
PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well Jon, we're getting some new information in to us. But it is very scant at this point. The defense ministry here in South Korea saying that they suspect that the first stage of this rocket may have exploded in midair.
Now we don't know now at this point whether or not that is confirmed. We had heard from them a little earlier that they said 9:32 so about an hour and a half ago that the first stage had successfully separated and then the second stage four minutes later they then -- it disappeared from radar.
So we are getting some very conflicting reports at this point as to whether or not this satellite launch was in fact successful. Now as you say the U.S. ministry -- sorry that the senior U.S. defense officials saying they believe that they may have been something that was launched into space. But then we are hearing from the South Koreans that it may not have been successful. We are hearing from the Japanese that they believe there were four locations where parts of this rocket fell 150 kilometers west of the Korean peninsula and then Yellow Sea is where the first part of this rocket fell.
We understand from Shinzo Abe, the Prime Minister Twitter feed. And then the second and third part in the southwest of Korea and then a fourth part about 2,000 kilometers south. So it's very difficult to know whether or not this has, in fact, been a successful launch at this point.
Now you would expect parts of this rocket to fall into the sea. So that doesn't suggest anything of a failure, because there are of course different sections of this rocket. The first stage, the second stage and third stage as it is trying to launch this satellite into space. Different parts and stages of the rocket would fall apart, fall away and then land in the sea.
Now we have an exact flight route and the flight path from North Korea. They did tell the international maritime organization of that exactly where it was expected to fall. What we now need to do is -- and of course, what the defense ministry officials and intelligence officials around the world will be doing right now is to match that up and see if that is in fact where these parts of the rocket fell and whether this can be considered a success.
But certainly, there's no definitive word at this point, Jon. And we can't say that it was a success. And of course, we are monitoring KCTV as well North Korean television to see if they're going to announce anything.
MANN: Now one point is crucial, U.S. authorities are calling this a destabilizing and provocative act. But the indications are that no nation was threatened at any time by this launch. Is that right?
HANCOCKS: As far as we know, at this point, we know from South Korea and Japan that they -- certainly Japan that they didn't feel threatened at any point. I mean, not threatened in the respect that the rocket may have harmed any of their citizens. Of course, threatened in a more bigger picture way, because this is moving north Korea one step closer to this long-range ballistic missile capability according to those outside of North Korea. They believe it's a cover for the missile test. Although Pyongyang insists that it is peaceful.
But as far as we know at this point and of course we have to caution that information is still coming in and conflicting information is coming in. Because it's only an hour and a half since this happened. But at this point it doesn't appear as though there was any immediate danger to those in the neighborhood.
Now we know that north Korea was going to use a flight path that avoided land mass. We know that it was going to go over the Yellow Sea and then further south across the waters. So in theory, it should not have affected any land mass at all.
[21:05:10] MANN: Now given North Korea's record, I gather experts wouldn't be surprised with either a possibility, whether it was success or failure. North Korea has had its share of both in the past. HANCOCKS: That's right. This is the fourth satellite launch that North Korea has attempted. There was one back in '98, there was one in 2009. Both of those outside of North Korea were considered to be failures. Although within North Korea they were announced as triumphant events and successes. But that was with Kim Jong-il the former leader that the father of the current leader Kim Jong-un.
Kim Jong-un is slightly different. We have heard back in April 2012, when he launched his first space launch, that was unsuccessful, but did break up in air about 90 seconds after takeoff, he announced that it was a failure. He announced more had to be done to try and perfect this technology. And he was very transparent about this which took the world by surprise quite frankly because the world was not used to North Korea announcing a failure. But certainly, a different tactic we're seeing from the son. He's a different man to his father.
In then in December 2012, he announced a successful space launch. That one we do understand from those outside of North Korea that there was something that was launched into space. It did reach orbit. Whether it was a working satellite has not been proven from outside North Korea.
So we would expect from previous experience of Kim Jong-un that if it was a failure, that he will announce it's a failure. It's not guaranteed of course. But I think he is well aware that in the international community there are an often lot of people tracking this. And if it was not successful, everybody will know it's not successful. Of course, there is the argument to be made his own people won't know if it was a failure. He could tell them what he wanted to. And they would have to believe him. But from what we have seen of this young leader, he does seem a little more transparent in admitting to failure than his father certainly was.
MANN: Paula Hancock live in Seoul. See the United Nation Correspondent Richard Roth joins us now from New York. And Richard, I gather the diplomats are at work and they will be busy tomorrow.
RICHARD ROTH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's probably a meeting Sunday morning New York time. And urgent session of the U.N. security council. There has to have been dozens of these over the years. And it all follows a very familiar drill of process and the ambassadors will file in. And most of the Security Council will be strongly opposed to North Korea's actions. And the differences as you pointed out in many of your other interviews earlier what to do and who's going to do it.
Even it was reported again a reminder just today in the "New York Times" of how China allows luxury goods to keep flowing into North Korea, a country with a lot of starvation in it. But North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un needed a world class ski resort. And soon there were snowmobiles, snow blowers and a mile long cable car that got in.
So, they have been debating as at least another have reported on area for weeks now regarding what level of sanctions to impose on North Korea. It's the longest gap I believe between nuclear or potential nuclear blast and action at the Security Council. Secretary Kerry visited Beijing recently. And their still at loggerheads, one U.N. Security Council ambassador said -- when asked when they are going to agree on new sanctions, "We aren't in the end game yet." That was about a week ago. So this may speed up the urgency of some type of deliberations.
But do not look for any definitive action or agreement to come out of the Security Council with a Sunday urgent meeting in New York. Jonathan.
MANN: How many more kinds of sanctions can they impose? And why would they expect them to be any more successful?
ROTH: Where they feel they have got to go through this and keep the international community focused on North Korea. It's very easy for world attention, despite the gravity of what might be happening there, to wander. The U.S. and China disagree on what level of sanctions they can go for. China still gets a ton of oil, a country that really needs this type of energy. And the U.S. would like China to curb its exports of oil that keeps the North Korea their booms (ph) economy going.
So they would like China to crack down on banks and businesses. The Chinese as we have heard on the air said it's up to the U.S., you know, they could bend a little. That's what North Korea wants is a more open policy toward Pyongyang despite what he has been doing over the years.
So there's a sanctions committee that the U.N. has set up. And they every quarter, report on potential violations or what happens. But there's little follow-up action. Jonathan.
MANN: That having been said, it has been suggested on air this evening by the former U.S. ambassador to Seoul that the Obama administration could do more unilaterally just working with China directly.
[21:10:11] ROTH: Well, I'm sure they have discussed that in closed doors. China is certainly fears having any destabilization through sanctions next door. They don't want the million people refugee problem despite the threat of that is posed by North Korea's military might.
So they could -- they have been talking. There's been hot and cold relationships over the years between North Korea and others, they're the so-called six party talks. One gets the sense the diplomats this time are fed up maybe more than ever before. The people who the countries have requested this meeting no surprise really. Japan is a new member of the security counsel but also South Korea. They've got grave concerns in the area. I think you find agreement from other countries such as Russia and others. But it's again just like with Syria, is how far do you want to go to really carry out all the rhetoric that might be agreed on in New York?
MANN: Richard Roth in New York. Thanks very much.
Well, a U.S. official is telling CNN more about North Korea's launch. The source says North Korea launched its rocket at 7:29 p.m. eastern standard time. That would be just over an hour and a half from now. Not quite two hours. It was aimed toward the south over the Yellow Sea. Based on its trajectory, the official says it did not pose a threat to the U.S. or its allies not today. The long-term threat though seems to only grow.
Alexandra Field is in Beijing. Alexandra, China is regarded as a key to putting an end to the problem or at least addressing it. What can we expect?
ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. If any country has any leverage, there's no country that would have more leverage than China, which is why you have seen such a push from the international community trying to apply pressure to China to exercise a more forceful role here.
But there has been some hesitance from the Chinese. There has been some resistance to that. This morning we're seeing no official comment yet from the Chinese government, nothing out of Beijing at this point. But certainly this is been a topic of conversation in the past few weeks. You did have U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry traveling to China. There was that press conference with the Chinese Foreign Minister Wang who did go as far as to call Kim Jong-un's actions reckless and dangerous.
At the same time he made it clear that China is not swayed by events. He called China's position toward North Korea on nuclear escalation as being clearcut and also responsible. But you do have to look at China here. You do have to look at China to exercise whatever role, whatever leverage it has because they are in the closes position to do so. They are literally neighbors here sharing a border.
China and North Korea's shared nearly all of North Koreas boarder. They are -- China is North Korea's largest trade partner, its biggest international investor. So if someone can apply leverage. People are looking to China to do that. But China has not been moved by the U.S. or other countries to enter act more exacting sanctions that would really put a choke on North Korea's economy. China has in the past backed some U.N. sanctions which it had a limited impact on the economy. But those sanctions have targeted things like technology, luxury goods, military equipment at the same time you have trade between China and north Korea going on largely unimpacted.
So everyone is waiting for a response from Beijing to see whether or not Beijing would at this point support any further sanctions that could have a more severe impact on North Korea's economy. Jon.
MANN: Let me ask you a very basic question. North Korea is regarded in many quarters as an unpredictable and dangerous nuclear power. What's in it for China? Why does Beijing want to be the patron for a regime this unpredictable and threatening?
FIELD: You've got a geographical issue here Jon certainly. First of all, you're talking about two countries that are neighbors. There is an interest for China in not having that country right next to them destabilized. You don't want to have this refugee crisis right on the border of China. So this is something that has to be taken into account. There's a history a very close ties between China and North Korea. North Korea is something of a buffer between China and influence of the U.S. in the region. Is that important at this time? Probably not. You have seen the relations between China and North Korea somewhat cooling certainly since Kim Jong-un came to power after the h bomb test that was undertaken by North Korea quite recently.
You did an interesting move in which you had Chinese President Xi Jinping reaching out to South Korea's president and also to President Obama in a pretty pointed move however there has been no face-to-face meeting between Kim Jong-un and the President Xi Jinping in the four years since North Korea young dictator has came to power. Certainly this does mark a turning point relations between countries prior to Kim Jong-un, you had Kim Jong-un father Kim Jong-il in power. He made several trips to China, had meetings with senior ranking Chinese officials. Jon.
MANN: Let me ask you and I'm going to put you on the spot here there. Some people who think that Iran is helping to fund the North Korea missile program.
[21:15:04] It would seem if anything the logic suggest Chinese money might be behind it. Is there a relationship between Beijing and this technology that we're seeing literally on our screen in a launch pad?
FIELD: Look, what the Chinese have said very unequivocally here is that they have taken a clearcut and responsible position. They are certainly not saying that they would encourage in any way the behavior of Kim Jong-un. They have made the point in the meeting with John Kerry of calling him a reckless and dangerous leader insofar as the actions, these provocations. And they did send a high level senior official to North Korea just about a week ago to call for restraint in the face of this announcement that this rocket would be launched. Jon.
MANN: Alexandra field in Beijing, thanks very much.
In Beijing, in Seoul, in Camera (ph), in Washington, they are watching closely still waiting to figure out what exactly the North Koreans have done, whether they succeeded or failed.
Global affairs correspondent Elise Labott is in Washington and has been learning what she can. What can you tell us?
ELISE LABOTT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Jon, I just want to follow on something that Alex just said. I mean, yesterday, President Obama spoke with Chinese President Xi. You know, the White House put out a statement that they were trying to coordinate efforts in responding to North Korea's nuclear tests. And they both conveyed that, you know, the launch -- the ballistic missile test that North Korea was threatening would be in violation of U.N. Security Council resolution and prevent -- be another provocative and destabilizing action.
So I think that the pressure is really going to be on China right now. And I think you are going to see the U.S. really step up its pressure on China to take more action, at least at the U.N. Security Council. I mean, China will look a little bit foolish if after in the face the North Korean nuclear test, in the face of this launch just a few weeks after if it is unwilling to sign on to at least something at the U.N. Security Council. And what the U.S. that's really -- the U.S. right now let say is putting all is diplomatic eggs in that U.N. basket.
But that doesn't mean that the United States is not beefing up its defenses in the region. There's talk about boosting up missile defense. There's the missile -- that THAAD missile defense system that the U.S. is talking to Seoul about putting -- beefing up there. And there is talking about beefing up missile defense in Hawaii and Alaska and being west coast.
So even as the U.S. works to try and punish North Korea at the U.N., I think there's a recognition that that's not going to stop the nuclear or missile threat by north Korea.
MANN: Now it's so intriguing. Because it wasn't so long ago that the U.S. and its allies were celebrating the success of an agreement with Iran to bring Iran back into the community of nations more fully to end sanctions and it's hoped to end its nuclear program or at least the threat of its nuclear program would represent in terms of developing a weapon. North Korea seems like the entirely other end of the spectrum, no dialogue and no success whatsoever.
LABOTT: Well, in some North Korea watchers like you heard the Ambassador Chris Hill's when you were speaking to him before, Bill Richardson who has done a lot of work with North Korea, former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. and traveled to North Korea many times says ,it's time for some kind of diplomatic initiative like the one that the U.S. had with Iran.
But it's very different in terms of Iran wanted to be part of the international community, wanted to improve its economy, was very also intertwined in the global system even as it was isolated diplomatically. I mean, there's no reason to believe that North Korea wants to be part of the league of world nations, if you will. And that's why they really don't know what North Korea wants to get it back to the table.
I mean, what it has asked for is, you know, recognition as a nuclear state. The U.S. has made clear, Japan, South Korea and to China to some extent has made clear that's not going to happen. Even though North Korea is the fact (ph) on nuclear state, they are not going to recognize North Korea as a nuclear power.
So I think what they need to do is find some kind of way to bring North Korea to the table without preconditions. And North Korea has its preconditions on that. The U.S. has preconditions that North Korea has to come to the table willing to say it's going to give up its nuclear program. I mean, that's not going to happen. That's what negotiations are for.
Certainly, North Korea is looking for some kind of assurances of the regime, more aid, all those things, you know, experts think there could be some kind of formula. But right now, there's not a lot of visibility into what the North Koreans want. So there's really no way to get them to the table.
[21:20:04] MANN: Elise Labott on the line from Washington. If you are just joining us, almost exactly two hours ago, North Korea launched a rocket into space carrying itself (ph) a satellite. North Korea says its rocket program is peaceful. It had told neighboring nations where the rocket was supposed to go. And by all indications, that's exactly what has happened. The rocket did go roughly where it was expected to go. The question is whether it ever successfully got into space. Experts are parsing that.
But our Paula Hancocks was reporting from Seoul just a short time ago that if it had succeeded, we should expect an announcement soon. Now the word from the countries state run television is that there will be an important announcement at noon Pyongyang time, that's one hour and ten minutes from now. North Korea launches a rocket is expected to make an announcement about that. Our coverage will continue right after this.
MANN: Welcome back. First, it was a nuclear test last month. Now just two hours ago, a rocket launch. Perhaps the test of a be ballistic missile. Authorities in Washington still are trying to parse what happened. But Pyongyang has announced that it has launch a rocket baring a satellite into space. And it say it will make an announcement in roughly one hour and seven minutes from now, an important announcement according to the state-run television.
The rocket did not immediately threaten any of North Korea's neighbors. But it's regarded as one more step along a dangerous path towards being able to put a weapon on to a missile that could carry it to the north neighbors, perhaps as far as the United States. I spoke a short time ago with the former U.S. ambassador to South Korea, Christopher Hill, about what his sense of the situation is.
CHRISTOPHER HILL, U.S. AMBASSADOR: Despite all the talk about whether it's a North Korea provocation et cetera, what I really think it is as a military testing program. They have been testing nuclear weapons and they are testing the delivery system. So I think we need to understand this in that context. I don't think it's an effort to somehow humiliate China or somehow behave in some different way.
[21:25:02] I think it's an internal testing program. And what it speaks to the fact that North Korea simply doesn't care what we think.
MANN: How dangerous is North Korea's rocket technology right now?
HILL: There is no question that they have made progress on their nuclear explosions, on these nuclear devices. You know, at first they had a fizzle, you know, it fizzled out. It didn't work. They have continued to work on it. They have had four tests. It's not a hydrogen program. But you don't have to be a hydrogen program to be extremely threatening. The issue of course is whether you could take a nuclear device, miniaturize it, and turn into a weapon that can fit on the nose cone of a missile. And clearly, that's the second part of what they are trying to do.
So in answer to your question, I think it's a serious problem. And I think what the U.S. needs to do is rethink so-called strategic patience. Now I think the Chinese need to rethink their own soft policy. And more importantly than that, I think the U.S. and the Chinese need to stop pointing fingers at each other and start sitting down and figuring out what are we going to do about this. MANN: Now obviously, there are a lot of countries that look nervously at north Korea having this kind of technology. But there are suggestions that another reason for concern is that the technology isn't going to stay in North Korea. It's going to be sold. That North Korea is the center for proliferation of dangerous technology. How great is that concern?
HILL: You know, we have seen the capacity among North Korea and to sell just about anything. So I think proliferation is a real concern. I cannot say that we have seen connections between North Korea and international terrorism. But why not if the price is right?
So we have a country that has no interest in working with other countries, that has no interest in its standing in the world except to become a nuclear state. And I think we need to get serious about this. And by serious, I mean we need to look at traditional diplomatic channels, not communicating with the Chinese through press conferences, but rather sitting down with the Chinese and figuring out what we can do to retard this program and what we can do to make northeast Asia a safer place.
MANN: The former U.S. Ambassador to Seoul, Christopher Hill. North Korea launches a rocket rattling nerves from Seoul to Washington. Our coverage will continue after this.
[21:30:30] MANN: Welcome back. The world was warned in advance ships and planes were told to stay out of the way. And after moving its launch window forward, it's said perhaps to take advantage of better weather, North Korea did what it said it would and launched a rocket which it says is ferrying a satellite into space. The move has been described as destabilizing and provocative by U.S. authorities. The U.N. Security Council is summoned into emergency session Sunday. North Korea's security officials have been meeting in emergency session.
But we still don't know exactly what was aboard that rocket or if it did indeed make it where it was supposed to into orbit. The U.S. official is now telling CNN more about the launch though. The source says North Korea launched this rocket at 7:29 p.m. eastern standard time. That would be two hours and two minutes ago.
It was aimed toward the south over the Yellow Sea. Based upon its trajectory, the official says it did not pose a threat to the U.S. or its allies. But once again, what was aboard the rocket, why it was launched and where it eventually ended up still not clear.
Paula Hancocks joins us live from Seoul where the government has been speaking. What are you hearing?
HANCOCKS: Well, Jon we just heard from the South Korea President Park Geun-hye addressing the nation. And she has said that North Korea has violated U.N. Security Council resolutions by carrying out this missile test. She says the missile test is a challenge to world peace. She's calling it a missile test. She's not calling it a satellite launch. South Korea among many other countries believing that it's just a coverup for a long-range ballistic missile test. She does not believe this is peaceful as Pyongyang claims.
She also said that we don't know when North Korea is going to do another provocative action. So our government needs to come up with a plan to protect the safety of our people. So obviously, from a domestic point of view, she's calling on her government to do more from an international point of view. She is also calling for more sanctions but stronger sanctions. South Korea and the United States and Japan have been calling for stronger and stricter more comprehensive sanctions against North Korea, especially following the January 6th nuclear test.
But up until this point, we have seen China resisting those strong sanctions. So there is no consensus on that. But she is saying that this proves there needs to be stronger sanctions, something we are likely to hear from the U.S. side as well. We also know that from the U.S. embassy here in Seoul that the ambassador has been -- is in close contact with the government, with USFK which is the U.S. Forces Korea.
Remember there are 28,000 U.S. troops here in South Korea who are helping guard the people of South Korea. So he is in close contact with the commander there to try and find out what exactly has happened. But of course, the question everyone has at this point is, was this satellite launch, rocket test, missile test, whatever you want to call it, was it successful or not and it just not clear at this point. Jon.
MANN: Has there been any change in the security status, the military readiness of South Korea forces or U.S. forces in South Korea?
HANCOCKS: They are very reticent to say that what level they are at. But we know that they were on alert to shoot down this rocket if it looked like it was straying from the planned route and look like it was going to be putting people in South Korea in jeopardy. We know the Japanese military was also on standby to do that. They had patriot missiles outside the defense ministry headquarters.
And so certainly without saying that they are at a high alert, it is very clear that they were. And as would be expected, they were monitoring this planned route very closely to see whether or not it was going to be jeopardizing anybody on the ground, whether or not it was going to be threatening any land mass. Of course, the planned route was to go over water. It was to go down skirting past the Korean peninsula, so through the Yellow Sea then the South China Sea. It's not clear where exactly these rocket parts have landed. We heard from the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on his Twitter feed that he believes there have been four locations that missile parts have fallen.
One just 150 kilometers west of Korea. One -- two and three about southwest of the peninsula. And then the fourth one back 2,000 kilometers further south.
[21:35:02] We are still checking whether or not that is where they are supposed to have landed. But of course, the question now is whether or not this was successful. We heard from South Korea's defense ministry that they believe stage one actually exploded in midair. And they say stage two of this rocket disappeared from radar. So, it does appear though it was a failure. We haven't got confirmation at this point though.
MANN: It has been very clear how alarmed authorities in Washington and Seoul and Tokyo are. But let me ask you about the people of South Korea. On a day like today, is this going to make anyone change their plans or sit next to the radio or the television?
HANCOCKS: They may certainly notice it's happened. There may be those who are tuning in to listen to what happened. But there is definitely no sense of panic in Seoul. There never is when something like this happens. There never was after the nuclear test on January 6. Then there hasn't been even after provocations like, for example, about six years ago when North Korea actually fired upon one of the South Korea Island. There was not a feeling of panic in the rest of South Korea. They have lived with this threat for decades.
North Korea is still technically at war with South Korea because after the Korean War in 1953, there was no peace treaty that was actually signed. So they are still technically at war. And this is something that South Korea people know how to deal with. That the fact is -- that officials say that people were not in danger. There was not as far as they can tell a danger of rocket parts falling. We know that airlines that actually changed their flight routes ahead of time knowing the coordinates to make sure that there were no possible rocket parts falling on their planes. We know that everyone was aware of where there's rocket should have gone.
So there's certainly no sense of panic. And of course, remember, it's Lunar New Year. Most people are on holiday. Offices are shut for the next three days. It will open till Thursday. Many restaurants, many shops are shut. So people are in a holiday mood. I don't think that this is going to dampen that too much.
MANN: Paula Hancocks in Seoul. Thanks very much.
We want to share some video that we got in from the Japanese broadcaster NHK. It's not really easy to make out. But if you look at that red circle, this is said to be the Korean rocket. Or was. As we heard from Paula Hancocks, the word she's hearing in South Korea is that the first stage of rocket exploded and the second stage disappeared from radar.
These are the only images we have seen so far for the human eye. It's not clear what they tell us. But they don't speak to a big, glorious, obvious success. We will know more in a very short time. Authorities in Pyongyang have announced that there will be an important announcement on state television coming up in the next little while. And we hope to learn more then.
Alexandra Field is in Beijing. And I'm curious what if anything you are hearing there. The government in the United States, the government in South Korea, the government in Japan have all been very, very quick to make public statements about this launch. Are they saying anything in Beijing? FIELD: Right Jon, all eyes on Beijing. And as of yet, no official comment from Beijing. Of course, everyone is watching to hear what Beijing will say because Beijing is widely regarded as having more leverage in terms of north Korea than any other country.
Look, to be perfectly clear, China has no interest in a nuclear North Korea, of course. At the same time, the Chinese have no interest in toppling the regime next door. So there's this fine line to walk so to speak. There's also a very real line, the border that separates these two countries. North Korea shares almost all of its northern boarder with China.
So there are important significant economic ties here. China is North Koreas biggest trading partner. It's largest international investor which is why the international community regards China is having the most leverage in terms of dealing with North Korea.
But the flip side of this for China is this. They run the risk of destabilizing the country next door with any swifter or deeper or more serious economic sanctions. The Chinese have backed previous U.N. sanctions which have targeted luxury goods, technology, military equipment. But most of the trade between North Korea and China goes on as normal right now. Jon.
MANN: The U.N. Security Council is supposed to meet Sunday morning in New York. Are the Chinese, who have a veto, going to be the most skeptical at the table?
FIELD: Certainly you would imagine that they would be. You have had some high profile attempts to try and force China or urge China to take a more strict and severe tone here in terms of dealings with North Korea. But the Chinese have not committed to that. You had John Kerry actually in China urging the Chinese to take greater action here.
[21:40:02] But the Chinese have been pretty clear in saying that their responses, their policies have been responsible. That they have been clearcut and thought out.
The Chinese have said that they don't react to events. Instead, they have this more thought out policy. At the same time the Chinese have said pretty clearly that they won't endorse sanctions just for the sake of sanctions, that there has to be a real goal here to try and force North Korea to cooperate. So Again, they are trying to juggle this position that they are in, which is the risk of destabilizing a neighbor country at the same time however, you have the reality of the fact that the close relationship that China and North Korea once had does seem to be cooling at least in recent years. These are historical allies.
However, you have had this space growing seemingly between Beijing and Pyongyang. The Chinese have acknowledged the fact that Kim Jong-un is what they call a reckless leader who has taken reckless actions and made dangerous decisions. And it's pretty interesting to point out here Jon that Xi Jinping the Chinese president has never actually met with Kim Jong-un in the four years since he came to power. That's pretty more difference from Kim Jong-un predecessor his father Kim Jong-il who had a much closer relationship with Chinese officials.
MANN: It seems like a very expensive one-way relationship. China is offering Pyongyang a great deal but there's an enormous opportunity for trade with South Korea, with Japan. But the countries in the region they are very nervous about North Korea. China is really. It's making a difficult decision as suppose by staying so close to Pyongyang.
FIELD: Right. There certainly a calculation that needs to be taken here. It's interesting that we haven't heard a comment yet from Beijing. And every time you have a provocation from Pyongyang, Beijing certainly does need to think carefully about what their response will be. There were some efforts in advance of this rocket launch to dissuade North Korea from taking these provocative steps. In fact you had a senior Chinese official who traveled to North Korea calling for restraint.
But he in fact returned to China seeming somewhat resigned, not sure if that message was being received by Pyongyang. And frankly, it has been pretty clear that Kim Jong-un doesn't have a great deal of interest in playing ball with China, despite the fact that the North Korean economy depends so heavily on the Chinese government. We should point out here Jon that in that recent h bomb test undertaken by North Korea, there was no warning sent to China, which was considered a pretty significant move that North Korea was not informing its close ally, it's historical partner about this move that would have such an impact on the international community.
MANN: You know, once again, it's extraordinary when you think about it. North Korea cannot supply any of its people's most basic needs. That it's able to be able -- it's able to put a rocket into space. Is China helping in any way? Is any of this technology either coming from China or (inaudible) going to China?
FIELD: You know again to be perfectly clear, China has no interest in a nuclear north Korea. However, this is a country that's full of people. There are trade relationships between China and North Korea. There's a North Korea economy that is dependent on this trade partnership with China. And the fact is that you have people who are at the center of this, Jon.
People who would be put into much more dire straits, a more serious situation in terms of hunger, in terms of poverty, if China was to entirely choke off these ties with North Korea. So while you do have this international pressure on China to enact stricter sanctions, or to back stricter sanctions. There is this threat of destabilizing the regime next door and causing a refugee crisis for it's neighbor..
MANN: Alexandra Field in Beijing. Thanks very much.
And so what will the west do without China's help? Global Affair correspondent Elise Labott joins us now from Washington. And Elise we're looking at pictures of this rocket. This rocket, this space vehicle, we're not sure what happened to it. But certainly, it has brought North Korea to the center of the west's attention again. What happens now? LABOTT: Well Jon, that's a really good question. And I thought what President Park of South Korea said was very interesting. She said, we don't know when and where North Korea is going to make another provocative action. And so that's why she said that the South Korea government needs to come up with a plan to protect the safety of our people and obviously that means coordinating with the U.S. and Japan, their allies. And those are some of the same concerns that the U.S. has that because North Korea is so unpredictable and erratic and particularly this leader Kim Jong-un, they don't know what the next step is.
Usually, North Korea waits for some kind of international reaction before taking a launch. You saw this nuclear test just a few weeks ago. Usually, the pattern goes that after a nuclear test, North Korea kind of waits and watches to see what comes out of the international community. What comes out of the U.N. Security Council. This time they didn't wait for any reaction and just made this launch.
[21:45:05] And so U.S. officials have been saying that that signifies that North Korea is even more unpredictable an erratic and provocative than we even thought. So right now all eyes are on the U.N. there will be a U.N. Security Council meeting tomorrow morning. And what the U.S. and its allies really hope is that there could be obviously it won't come out tomorrow but they have been discussing some kind of resolution with additional sanctions against North Korea.
But the question is as we have been talking about, what would those sanctions do? North Korea already sanctions up to the hilt. There could be more sanctions against its economy, against individual companies and leaders of the regime. But that really has not brought North Korea to its knees in the way that the U.S. wants to curb its nuclear vision.
So a lot of people talking about the need for some new diplomatic initiative to bring North Korea to the table. That's what the Chinese say that North Korea wants, to talk to the United States. And I'm sure that, you know, there have been talks about this since the nuclear test but I believe that there will be additional calls for the U.S. to try and start some kind of diplomatic initiative. Jon.
MANN: Let me put this very simply with all due respect to the diplomats we're trying to address this. Is it the case that North Korea is a problem the world can't agree on how to solve?
LABOTT: Well, let's see. Most of the world can agree on how (inaudible) on. They really but one country that's really the whole ally right now is China. And so U.S. officials have been talking about what is the leverage that they could use on China to get China to cooperate more? It's a very tricky issue. I was in Beijing with Secretary of State John Kerry last week. Some very tense talks with the Chinese. What the U.S. are saying is listen, we want to with China, we want to work within, you know, kind of multilateral channel to do this as an international community.
If China is not going to play ball, then the U.S. has said that there are actions that they could take that won't make China very happy. We're talking about so-called secondary sanctions that would affect any company that North Korea does business with. That would primary hurt the Chinese. These are the sanctions that were put on Iran and really put that economy -- grinded that economy to a halt because there could be very little business with any European countries or any Asian countries, particularly in the oil sector. If the U.S. were to start sanctioning Chinese companies that were doing business with North Korea, that would not make China very happy. The U.S. also has promised that if China does not -- does not play ball that it could boost up its defenses in the region. It's talking to South Korea about putting the THAAD missile defense system on -- in Seoul. And there are other military measures that the U.S. could take that would make China very unhappy for the U.S. to be in its backyard. So obviously the U.S. doesn't want to do that. It's not making threats or, you know, ultimatums. But it's sending the signal that we need to work together as an international community and China needs to play its part as a country that the U.S. believes has the most leverage on North Korea.
MANN: Elise Labott on the line form Washington. Thanks very much.
And so, diplomats are getting to work. The rocket scientists have already done theirs. You are looking at images that we have of a rocket that North Korea has launched it says carrying a satellite into space. Whether it succeeded or not is still unclear. But North Korea's neighbors and the United States are nervous about the news.
We'll be back with more after this.
[21:51:02] MANN: Welcome back. It has been just over two hours since North Korea launched a rocket it said ferrying a satellite into space. Putting a rocket aloft is complicated business deciphering what in fact happened to that rocket. When it comes from a secretive nation is complicated as well.
Daniel Pinkston Professor of International Relations at Troy University joins us now from Seoul. Professor first of all what do you make of the early indications we have had about what happened?
DANIEL PINKSTON, PROF. INTERNATIONAL RELATION, TROY UNIVERSITY: Well, we're still trying to confirm if the launch was successful. I have mixed views now. There were initial reports that the first stage had broken up into 270 pieces. The South Korea military was reporting that. But there are reports now that maybe the subsequent stages, second and third separated and burned successfully.
So we should be able to find out in the next hour or so and few reported Pyongyang is going to have a news conference in about 40 minutes from now. So we'll see the confirmations coming up shortly.
MANN: You know, the indications are so fragmented. But I have to ask you because we're all very curious. Japan has analyzed the information it has. And it says that the rocket fell into four different locations after takeoff. One location 150 kilometers west of the Korean peninsula in the Yellow Sea, two other locations southwest of the Korean peninsula in the east China Sea, a fourth location about 2,000 kilometers south of Japan in the Pacific Ocean.
The rocket was heading south. Does that sound like it was going where they were trying to send it? Is there any way to guess?
PINKSTON: If the debris fell at such a long distances, I don't have the information at my fingertips right now, but they did announce a drop zone. And we could look at the mapping of that and figure out if the parts of the rocket debris fell in the expected areas. And that would give a clue as far as whether or not it was a success or if the vehicle broke up at some point.
So we should be able to get that information in the next hour or two to confirm that one way or the other. But whether or not it was a success or failure, these tests provide a lot of data and information for the scientists and engineers. And they can improve the systems and continue to develop bigger and better missiles and produce them with more confidence and verify the reliability of the systems.
MANN: Even if there was a satellite on board, it sounds from everyone we are talking to like this was not about putting a satellite into space.
PINKSTON: Well, it is and it isn't. I mean, North Korea does have a legitimate interest in peaceful access to outer space. They do have a space program. All countries have an interest in access to space for telecommunications, weather broadcasting, scientific data collection and so forth. But this is a dual use technology. It has military applications that you can't really separate. So if you can place a satellite into orbit, it's not much of a step to develop a reentry vehicle. You can put a weapon on top of the satellite launcher. And it could be used as an ICBM.
So you can't separate that out. In the North Koreans of course are looking at the military applications as well. That's how they have started with their program about 20, 25 years ago when they started developing missiles. They were looking at the military applications first. In the space application, these peaceful applications have been kind of an after thought. So you can't really separate the military threat from this.
MANN: How good are they getting at this?
PINKSTON: Well, they are persistent. They are quite good. Earlier in the program, you mentioned all of these other difficulties in the economy. But the state is so effective in squeezing resources. And they have control of resources.
[21:55:04] And they can allocate a lot of money and other resources. And of course the most important resource is your human resources, your scientists and engineers. And they have been given the tools and the assets, the components, the parts, the money to continue to work on this. They have been persistent over time.
So they have demonstrated that even as small country with this type of dedication and resource allocation, they can develop this technology. So this is old technology that was developed decades ago by the Soviet Union or the United States and other countries. So they are following in those footsteps. And they continue to work on it.
MANN: Are they getting anyone help apart from the financial support of the Chinese? Are they getting help with the technology?
PINKSTON: Well, they have over the past. They have bought technology. They have stolen technology. They have got foreign technical assistance. Some of that is not clear. They have a number of reasons to conceal that information. But nevertheless, even in the unclassified literature out there, there are a lot of reports of cooperation with Iran or getting components or engineers from other countries to come in and help them with this. But they have very advanced and qualified engineers and scientists who work on this. They have good technical training. And they learn over time.
So these types of flight tests are very valuable to them because they can go back and improve on the design. Even if it failed and that provides lot of information how to fix those problems in the technology or design. And then they keep coming back. They don't have the ability to test the kind of rapid schedule that the United States did back during the Cold War. But they are very consistent and persistent in trying to acquire these capabilities.
MANN: They are consistent and persistent and they have been at it again. Daniel Pinkston at Troy University in Seoul. Thanks so much for talking with us.
North Korea launches a rocket. The world is still left wondering what was in it, what it was for and whether it succeeded. Our coverage will continue after this.
MANN: Welcome back.
[22:00:00] Western experts, Asian experts, and the militaries of several countries had their sights set on a launch site in North Korea where a short time ago, Pyongyang launched a rocket into space.