Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Misairu? You must be kidding

I expressed my displeasure over BBC’s headline jazzing up the Japanese response to the North Korean launch. It is only fair then, to mention that the Japanese media have been leaning in the other direction with its reference to the North Korean (dando) misairu, or (ballistic) missile. Every definition of “missile” tags it as a weapons system. Now the North Korean authorities have no business spending time and money launching a “satellite” while they go around begging and cajoling the international community for food; and yes, their military objective is hard not to see. Still, technically, this one is a (ballistic) projectile, not a missile, until shown otherwise. So it is with delight to see that today’s hardcopy evening version of the Yomiuri (though not the online version) put misairu in quotation marks in the headline and referred to it as hasshatai, or “projectile”, in the text itself.

I realize it may trivial, but these things bug me, okay?


Jan Moren said...

Technically any nation has a right to use space, for civilian or military use (and some countries even (unwisely) wants to reverse the ban on weapons). I guess that the most effective way North Korea could make its opponents (ie. most everybody) absolutely livid would be to adhere strictly to all such treaties, and keep launching communications and surveillance satellites.

Same thing goes for Iran. Much as I loathe and despise such a regime, they do have a right to civilian nuclear power, and IANA has repeatedly cleared them of charges to use it as a cover for a military program.

Any sustainable, credible international regulation will have to be neutral, and not have different standards depending on whether we like the other guys or not.

Jun Okumura said...

Janne reminds us that it is important to go out of our way to respect the rules if we want to bring less observant states into line. Nothing erodes the fragile rule of international law than an attitude that says we’ll play by the rules when we want to. This is where I think the Obama administration is a welcome return to the pre-Bush years and in particular the days of the first President Bush. In this regard, I think it’s actually a good thing that North Korea is playing by the rules. Now, it is going to do the tests anyway, so we might as well have something to hold them accountable for. In the meantime, there are the UN resolutions, which should also be respected, and its possibilities explored with regard to the treaties that North Korea has joined. Something similar might be said for Iran. The problem here is that the IAEA has bent over to accommodate Iran in the hopes of maintaining what little hold it has on Iran’s actions. That’s a difficult judgment call, and I’m sure that more could have been done to restrain Iran if the Bush administration had performed better with regard to Iraq (and France had been less short-sighted, and Russia had been less obstructionist, which might have been the case if the successive post-Cold War administrations in the United States…). But I’ll stop here before I reveal the depth of my ignorance.