PUBLISHED: 16:55 EST, 13 April 2012 | UPDATED: 10:38 EST, 14 April 2012
The United States will not go forward with planned food aid to North Korea, the White House said on Friday, after the impoverished nation’s unsuccessful launch of a long-range missile which Washington had warned would have consequences.
‘Their efforts to launch a missile clearly demonstrates that they could not be trusted to keep their commitments,’ White House National Security Council spokesman Ben Rhodes told reporters traveling with President Barack Obama to Florida.
‘Therefore, we are not going forward with an agreement to provide them with any assistance,’ he said, warning that North Korea faced additional sanctions if it defied the international community again by taking further ‘provocative’ steps.
North Korea said the missile launch had failed earlier on Friday. North Korea has repeatedly defended its right to launch rockets for what it says are peaceful purposes. Friday’s mission, reported to have had hundreds of millions of dollars invested in it, was supposed to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of national founder Kim Il-sung.
Washington had offered in February to consider providing North Korea with nutritional aid in return for its suspension of uranium enrichment activities and other movement toward the de-nuclearization of the Korean peninsula.
But it had repeatedly cautioned that the test of the long-range missile would jeopardize food aid, and said it would begin working on ‘additional steps’ with other world powers to dissuade Pyongyang from further acts of provocation.
‘Today we will begin consultations at the United Nations Security Council about how to deliver a message to the North Koreans that the international community rejects this launch and is prepared to take additional steps, particularly if North Korea continues to go down the road of taking provocative actions,’ Rhodes said.
North Korea, embarrassed by the failure of the much-hyped rocket launch, is now widely believed to be weighing undertaking its third nuclear test in order to show its military strength.
‘If they continue to take additional provocative actions, we of course have to continue to look at ways in which we could tighten sanctions on the North Koreans, and take additional steps to apply pressure on the regime,’ Rhodes said.
There is likely to be pressure from leading countries to impose more sanctions.
The concern is that North Korea is using launches to perfect the kind of technology that would enable it to build a missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead to the United States.
But it poses difficulties for China which will likely resist further sanctions even though its own diplomacy failed to stop the rocket launch.
‘After giving so much aid to North Korea, it still did not listen to China, and this hurt China-North Korea relations and erodes domestic support in its continued support of North Korea,’ said Shen Dingli, a professor and regional security expert at Shanghai’s Fudan University.
‘This also undermines confidence in the U.S.-China relationship, and whether China had done enough to persuade the North. So, China is also a loser, but not as big a loser as if North Korea succeeded in its launch,’ he said.
Kim Jong-Un tried to save face following the humiliating failure by going ahead with the unveiling of a statue of his father Kin Jong-Il intended to cap ‘triumph’ of rocket launch.
The failure was a further embarrassment for the country after a bus-load of government-invited journalists made a wrong turn, allowing them to catch a glimpse of North Korea’s less glamorous side.
Most foreign visitors to Pyongyang on the Communist heartland never witness a pothole, a traffic jam or a piece of litter bigger than a cigarette butt. Those with physical disabilities are hidden from view as is graffiti.
Buses catering for people from outside of North Korea only ever take roads which are well-maintained and spotlessly clean.
But photos snapped by those on board the press bus exposed dusty pot-holed neighbourhoods, where Old people trudged along the sidewalk, some with handmade backpacks crafted from canvas bags.
It’s a far cry from the gleaming buildings, spotless landscapes and privileged people the country insists is a true representation of itself.