Noland, however, also mentioned the ‘‘Machiavellian argument’’ that this could cause future problems for Kim by significantly boosting the power of the military — ‘‘the only real threat to his rule.’’
Successfully firing a rocket was so politically crucial for Kim at the onset of his rule that he allowed an April launch to go through even though it resulted in the collapse of a nascent food-aid-for-nuclear-freeze deal with the United States, said North Korea analyst Kim Yeon-su of Korea National Defense University in Seoul.
The launch success consolidates his image as heir to his father’s legacy. But it could end up deepening North Korea’s political and economic isolation, he said.
On Friday, the section at the rally reserved for foreign diplomats was noticeably sparse. U.N. officials and some European envoys stayed away from the celebration, as they did in April after the last launch.
Despite the success, experts say North Korea is years from even having a shot at developing reliable missiles that could bombard the American mainland and other distant targets.
North Korea will need larger and more dependable missiles, and more advanced nuclear weapons, to threaten U.S. shores, though it already poses a shorter-range missile threat to its neighbors.
The next big question is how the outside world will punish Pyongyang — and try to steer North Korea from what could come next: a nuclear test. In 2009, the North conducted an atomic explosion just weeks after a rocket launch.
Scott Snyder, a Korea specialist for the Council on Foreign Relations, wrote recently that North Korea’s nuclear ambitions should inspire the U.S., China, South Korea and Japan to put aside their issues and focus on dealing with Pyongyang.
If there is a common threat that should galvanize regional cooperation, ‘‘it most certainly should be the prospect of a 30-year-old leader of a terrorized population with his finger on a nuclear trigger,’’ Snyder said.
Jon Chol Jin in Pyongyang, and Foster Klug and Sam Kim in Seoul, South Korea, contributed to this report. Follow Jean H. Lee on Twitter: (at)newsjean.