Instead, he was seen as intent on bolstering his father’s main legacy of nuclear weapons and long-range missile programs to justify his own hereditary rule.
This time, North Korea did not invite foreign journalists. Nor did the government announce the launching plan to its domestic audience. South Korean officials said this suggested that the regime intended to cover it up if the satellite launching failed or declare the launching a success regardless of the outcome, as it had before.
Still, then-Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said in early 2011 that North Korea was within five years of being able to strike the continental United States with an intercontinental ballistic missile.
But doubts remained over how effective those penalties were on North Korea, which has survived decades of economic sanctions and found in China a patient patron whose desire to shore up its client regime with trade and aid appeared not to have been hurt by Pyongyang’s repeated flouting of its entreaties for restraint.
In a statement in October, North Korea’s National Defense Commission said that when “midranking policy makers from the United States. National Security Council and C.I.A. recently met with us in official and unofficial settings,” they tried to assure the North Koreans that Washington had no “hostile” intent against Pyongyang.
“But the reality clearly showed that the messages we received from the United States were lies,” it said, citing the United States’ agreement to let South Korea nearly triple the reach of its ballistic missiles, putting all of the North within their range.
North Korea aimed to use those negotiations to win a peace treaty and normalized ties with Washington, as well as massive economic aid.