North Korean residents are showing different responses to the country’s recent successful test launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile and are arguing over its significance, North Korean sources say.
The country celebrated for days following the missile’s July 4 launch, but many North Koreans are concerned that the test may now be used as a pretext for harsher mass mobilizations, sources told RFA’s Korean Service.
One source from North Korea’s Chagang province, bordering China, said that the missile launch was officially described as a gift to former leaders including Kim Il Sung, whose death anniversary fell just a few days later.
“Whatever the Central Committee’s intention was, however, the successful launch of an ICBM capable of carrying a nuclear warhead to the U.S. has created widespread anxiety,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“North Korean residents consider this a critical event,” he said.
Carried out just hours ahead of the Independence Day holiday in the U.S., the test was the first of North Korea’s Hwasong-14 missile, which the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) says can now successfully target the “heart of the United States.”
'Hard to judge'
Many North Koreans are unsure of the missile’s true abilities, though, a source living in North Korea’s Yanggang province said.
“It is hard to judge the developmental level of the ICBM by global standards,” RFA’s source said, also speaking on condition he not be named.
“People here have many different opinions about the ICBM,” he said.
“About one-third of North Koreans are naïve and believe that North Korea can defeat the U.S. with its nuclear and missile programs,” he said. “These are especially people in the countryside who have no contact with the outside world.”
The launch of a missile that many believe can now strike targets in Alaska nevertheless represents a significant advance in North Korea’s weapons program, analysts say.
The launch, which was widely condemned around the world, has meanwhile had a negative impact on North Korean traders working in China, who had hoped for better business opportunities owing to recent changes in the government of rival South Korea.
“North Korean traders in China are very unhappy with the ICBM missile launch,” one Chinese trading partner told RFA. “One of them even showed his dissatisfaction openly, calling the launch an ‘armed provocation.’”
Reported by Sunghui Moon for RFA’s Korean Service. Translated by Leejin Jun. Written in English by Lillian Andemicael.