It would be premature to celebrate the failure of North Korea’s missile test. After all, North Korean scientists—if they are not sent to the Hermit Kingdom’s slave labor camps as punishment—can learn just as much from failure as from success. Nor do Pyongyang’s provocations ever come in isolation. Earlier this month, the South Korean newspaper Dong-A Ilbo Online published a troubling report about several North Korean submarines gone missing:
South Korea is tracking three to four North Korean submarines that disappeared after recently leaving two bases on the east coast, a South Korean military source said Wednesday [April 4]. The source said the submarines are presumed to be of the 370-ton class that the South Korean military has been unable to locate since they departed from two submarine bases on the east coast. Another source said, “North Korea seems to be actively conducting submarine infiltration drills in the wake of warmer weather recently,” adding, “(The South Korean military) is closely watching the situation without ruling out the possibility of a provocation disguised as a drill…” Military authorities of South Korea and the U.S. monitor movement at the submarine bases. Once they depart from the bases and go under water, however, tracking the vessels down is difficult.
Given North Korea’s past use of submarines both to attack South Korean fishing vessels and to infiltrate assassins and saboteurs into the South, the missile tests might be just the end of the beginning rather than the beginning of the end. Only one thing is certain: Rather than ameliorate North Korea, President Obama’s efforts to engage have only convinced North Korea’s communist hardliners that the White House is weak and encouraged them to further aggression.