There was a collective sigh of relief when North Korea announced it would delay its controversial rocket launch, and immediatelyanalysts raced to analyze the implications and possible outcomes.
Most of them were wrong.
The terrifying aspect of North Korea's rocket launch is that no one saw it coming. Sure, they expected it would happen eventually, but most everyone was blindsided when North Korea lit the fuse just one day from their delay announcement.
The Associated Press ran the headling, the same day as N. Korea's announcement, that said "No signs of imminent rocket launch in North Korea."
The Washington Post ran three satellite photos of the launch site, giving the appearance that North Korea was under strict surveillance. They also ran an analysis from 38 North, the official website of the U.S.-Korean Institute at John Hopkins Advanced International Studies, which " predicted it’s likely to take until Wednesday or Thursday to remove the Unha-3 rocket and more than a week to repair it, meaning a launch is unlikely before Dec. 21-22."
Joel Wit, a former State Department Official and now editor of 38 North, had this to say to the Post:
“Our analysis shows the North Koreans are moving at a measured, careful pace to fix the problem with their rocket,” said former U.S. State Department official, Joel Wit, 38 North’s editor. “It’s anyone’s guess whether they succeed or not but there may be more challenges ahead, particularly if temperatures drop.”
Bloomberg talked to John Delury, an assistant professor of international relations.
He had this to say:
“It would be strange for the North Korean media to announce they’re having problems and delaying the launch if they could really do it. The fact that the announcement came from the scientific community and scientists and technicians were said to have made the call suggests there may indeed be technical problems and of course could be related to the weather. It’s extremely cold.”
Analysts had every reason to think it would be delayed, North Korea's history of rocket launches is wrought with failures, embarrassments and boastful talk. (Granted, the Post article dropped this little gem at the end as a caveat: " North Korea divulges little about its rocket program, and without independent observers on the ground, it is virtually impossible to discern its plans with any certainty.")
Nonetheless, they launched the rocket just hours later, it flew more than 1500 miles, and landed in the sea east of the Phillipines.
The surveillance satellites, the analysts, the Japanese, S. Koreans and U.S. Military, all had their blind-sided mouths agape as they waited for the results of the launch. Now they're universally condemning the behavior from the North.
No one's yet mentioned though that predictions were off and that North Korea's official statement was honestly taken to heart (the first mistake). No one even knew that the rocket was in the air until Japan spotted it.
That's the most terrifying aspect, the world's complete and total surprise.
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