North Korean Missile Tests Jeopardize U.S. Food Aid
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Mar. 30, 2012 A recent North Korean announcement that it will conduct a missile test next month, in conjunction with a reported short-range missile test last night, jeopardizes millions of dollars in U.S. food aid for the secretive country, senior defense officials told Congress.
“My view is that if North Korea goes forward with this test, we will stop this aid and stop the other steps that we had intended to take,” James N. Miller told the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday during his confirmation hearing as undersecretary of defense for policy.
Miller is President Barack Obama’s nominee to replace Michèle Flournoy, for whom he served as principal deputy secretary for three years, as the Pentagon’s policy chief.
North Korea announced March 16th that it plans to conduct a missile launch between April 12th and 16th. The announcement followed talks last month in Beijing, where the United States agreed to provide North Korea about 240 tons of nutritional aid, worth about $200 million, after it agreed to a moratorium on long-range missile launches.
Asked yesterday by a panel member, Miller said he shares the administration’s view that U.S. food aid promised last should stop if North Korea goes through with the planned launch.
“The view is that if North Korea goes forward with this test,” he said, “we will stop this aid and stop the other steps that we had intended to take and have to have a complete reconsideration of where we go in the future.”
Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asia and Pacific Security Affairs Peter R. Lavoy told the House Armed Services Committee on March 28 that North Korea’s announcement makes the February agreement null and void. During discussions with North Korea, he said, “the United States made it very clear that a satellite launch would be a deal-breaker.
“So we’ve … been forced to suspend our activities to provide nutritional assistance to North Korea,” Lavoy added.
The planned launch is “highly provocative because it manifests North Korea's desire to test and expand its long-range missile capability,” he said.
“In addition, the launch, if it occurs, would be in direct violation of Pyongyang's international obligations, including U.N. Security Council resolutions 1718 and 1874, which prohibit North Korea from conducting any launches that use ballistic missile technology,” Lavoy said.
North Korea claims the launch scheduled for April will be used to place a weather satellite into orbit to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Sung. The United States and other members of the international community believe the launch is actually aimed at testing North Korea’s long-range ballistic missiles, in violation of U.N. sanctions.
Miller addressed the Senate panel yesterday, just before North Korea reportedly fired two short-range, surface-to-ship missiles off its western coast.
“North Korea’s provocative behavior, large conventional military, proliferation activities and pursuit of asymmetric advantages through its ballistic missile and weapons of mass destruction programs, including uranium enrichment, present a serious threat to the United States, its allies and partners in the region and the international community,” Miller wrote in response to questions from the committee before yesterday’s hearing.
Miller pointed to North Korea’s provocative attacks against South Korea.
“The opaque nature of the two North Korean attacks on South Korean forces in 2010 provide a sober reminder that Pyongyang is willing to utilize its capabilities to undertake provocative actions,” he said.
Miller noted North Korea’s flight tests of theater ballistic missiles in 2006 and 2009, demonstrating the capability to target South Korea and Japan. In addition, North Korea continues its work to develop Taepo Dong-2 ballistic missiles. Although Pyongyang claims to have tested this technology in a space launch configuration, Miller said it could reach the United States if developed as an intercontinental ballistic missile.
“The United States must continue to monitor carefully North Korea’s WMD and missile development programs and related proliferation activities,” he told the committee.
Miller promised, if confirmed, to ensure the Defense Department continues to work closely with other parts of the U.S. government as well as allies and partners to address these threats, reduce vulnerabilities and conduct contingency planning.
“What concerns me most is that this range of threats comes from a single state standing on the outside of the international community,” he told the senators. “If confirmed, I will ensure that we sustain and advance our military readiness and coordination with allies and partners and explore all avenues for shaping North Korean behavior.”