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North Korean missile launch a reminder, says -

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Reporter: Tanya Nolan

PETER CAVE: Dr Brendan Taylor is an expert strategic and defence studies at the Australian National
University in Canberra. I spoke to him earlier today.

Doctor Taylor what is in it for the North Koreans?

Why do they push ahead?

BRENDAN TAYLOR: I think Peter there's probably three factors at play.

I think the first of those is to try and get the attention of the Obama administration early on in
its first term.

The Obama administration is of course pre-occupied with the global financial crisis, and in the
Middle East. They're trying to get attention early in the first term I think, is important.

I think it's very hard to know what's going on inside North Korea. It's often referred to as the
blackest hole of black holes, by the US intelligence community; but perhaps another factor that
could be Kim Jong Il the North Korean leader trying to re-assert himself. There were some concerns
surrounding his health last year that could be a part of it.

But also trying to advance North Korea's own missile program base with the possibility of selling
missiles to other countries; but also in terms of defending itself against the perceived threat
which the United States and its allies pose to the North Koreans.

PETER CAVE: Might it be connected in some way with buying more time for its nuclear program?

BRENDAN TAYLOR: I think that could definitely be a factor. It's something which the North Koreans
have traditionally tended to do in the past; particularly during the six-party talks process; a
process involving the US and China, the two Koreas; Japan and Russia.

It's during that time in terms of trying to take attention away from the nuclear issue we have seen
reference made to the missile issue, and that's perhaps one of the reasons also why the North
Koreans have launched the missile at this time, and what they have to get out of it.

PETER CAVE: Why is North Korea so immune to pressure from just about the whole world?

BRENDAN TAYLOR: I think one of the major reasons is - it's just lack of interaction with the
outside world. There are a few countries that have close economic and trading relations with North

China's one of the few countries which does have close trading and economic relations with the
North Koreans, but they've been reluctant to put as much pressure on the North Koreans, as the US
and other countries would like it to.

PETER CAVE: Kim Jong Il himself he's portrayed as a buffoon. As you've said he was portrayed over
the last 12 months as being gravely ill, in fact on his last legs.

Is he a more formidable man then the West gives him credit for?

BRENDAN TAYLOR: I think so; I think he's a very, very shrewd negotiator. And I think even in the
lead up to the latest rocket launch - we've seen just how shrewd a negotiator he is.

So I think that the fact that particularly during the time that the G20 summit was occurring that
the fact that North Korea was able to compete for news headlines during that time was really a
testament to what a shrewd and wily operator Kim Jong Il really is.

I think that the fact that North Koreans gave so much warning that the launch was going to take
place was a way of prolonging the international attention which was given to them. And I think if
you look at the pattern of negotiating behaviour, over the past one-and-a-half decades you can see
that there is a pattern there and it's not simply the actions of a mad man or an irrational actor.

PETER CAVE: Is it a case similar to the case we saw with Iraq before the invasion when Suddam
Hussein was threatening that he had all sorts of weapons and abilities that he didn't have?

BRENDAN TAYLOR: I think that in the North Korean case it's slightly different. I think the North
Korean armed forces are a much more formidable proposition then the Iraqi armed forces were.

The North Koreans have a million man army; they have quite considerable missile capability.

And I think the one lesson out of the Iraq experience that Kim Jong Il has learned is that states
which do possess nuclear capabilities tend not to be invaded as frequently as states which don't.
And I think he would've looked at what happened in Afghanistan and Iraq and then taken a lesson
from that. And I think it's a lesson that the Iranians have also taken as well.

PETER CAVE: The Americans say this missile launch was a dud, yet you say he has extremely good
missile capabilities; exactly what are they at this stage?

BRENDAN TAYLOR: I think in terms of the longer range missile capabilities they are still very
rudimentary - for say a missile with the capability to hit the United States or to hit Australia,
for example, are very rudimentary.

And I think that if indeed the tests are not a failure and indeed it does appear as though it was a
failure with the second stage of the three states rocket, apparently failing, then I think we can
definitely see that North Korea continues to have limitations in terms of its ability to fire
missiles over a longer range.

But it's short range missiles - and it's medium range missiles with the capability to hit, say
South Korea or Japan are much more numerous, and also have been proven before, through previous

PETER CAVE: Dr Brendan Taylor from the ANU.