A different fireworks display greeted America’s celebration of the Fourth of July last week.

Six short-range rockets and one long-range Taepodong-2 missile(which experts say would reach as far as Alaska or Hawaii) were fired by North Korea, but failed to reach their target. The short-range rockets landed on the Sea of Japan, while Taepodong-2, North Korea’s most advanced missile system, malfunctioned a minute after lift-off.

Hours after the launch, North Korea received international condemnation, especially from the United States and Japan. The United Nations Security Council immediately convened an emergency meeting while Japan demanded heavy economic sanctions against the communist state.

The United States, which has been in a stand-off with the North over its nuclear weapon reinforcement, called the missile-testing “provocative” and urged world leaders to unite in demanding that the North give up its nuclear weapons program. Should United States and its staunch ally, Israel, give up their own too? “Nuke” who’s talking!

North Korea insists that it has every right as a sovereign country to test-fire the missiles. Pyongyang has withdrawn from the Nuclear Non–Proliferation Treaty in 2003, after the US failed to deliver its promised light-water reactor (LWR) power plats, as stipulated in the 1994 Agreed Framework between the two counties. LWR would have replaced North Korea’s graphite-moderate nuclear power plants which many fear, could produce plutonium, a main component in nuclear weapons. North Korea thus vowed to test-fire more missiles and warned of “stronger actions” if any nation gets its way.

Prof. David Kang, co-author of the book, Nuclear North Korea: A Debate on Engagement Strategies, noted the overrated threat of North Korea’s nuclear power, saying that it is extremely difficult to create a missile capable of landing thousands of kilometers from its base, or putting a warhead that will blow-up, when you want to. Pyongyang’s first missile test failed in 1998, and most analysts believe that it will take the country 10 more years before it can achieve a full nuclear missile system capacity.

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Based on its size, fuel composition, and the fuel capacity, Taepodong-2 is estimated to be actually capable of reaching 4000 to 4500 km, the longest range in the North Korean missile arsenal. The Philippines, an unlikely target, lies approximately 4000 km from the Korean peninsula.

Is this the beginning of a nuclear war? Let’s hope not. With the technology today, any nuclear war can annihilate the planet. There is no other way to resolve the issue but through sincere diplomatic negotiations.

Since the six-party talk between China, US, Japan, South Korea, North Korea and Russia has failed, the US needs to enter into a long-overdue bilateral agreement with North Korea. Pyongyang at least is open to this arrangement, so why can’t the US give it a test-fire?

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