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Why Did Pyongyang Break its Moratorium on Missile Launches?
Dr. C. Kenneth Quinones, Professor of Korean Studies, Akita International University
Akita, Japan
July 6, 2006

North Korea once again has captured the attention of the international community by launching several ballistic missiles on July 4, 2006. This ends Pyongyang?s self imposed moratorium on the testing of ballistic missiles. It first promised the United States in 2000 that it would not test its ballistic missiles so long as the United States engaged in diplomatic dialogue with it. North Korea?s leader then promised Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi at their September 2002 summit to continue the ballistic missile moratorium. Those promises have been cancelled.

Once again, speculation is rampant about how North Korea?s leadership thinks. The attention focuses on one person: Kim Jong Il. Some personalize Kim?s decision. They claim he is mentally unbalanced, impulsive or hungry for attention. Other observers claim that Kim Jong Il is trying to frighten or force the United States to engage in diplomatic negotiations with North Korea.

We should broaden our focus and look beyond Kim Jong Il as we try to better understand North Korea?s actions. We would only trick ourselves if we believe Kim Jong Il rules North Korea alone. Policy making and politics in North Korea is much more complicated than the mind and actions of a single man. Kim Jong Il holds the title ?supreme leader,? but he cannot maintain his power alone. Nor can he make decisions without listening to information and advice from others.

Excerpted from the National Committee on North Korea.
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