The North Korean rocket, even with the full kick from the Earth's rotation, did not fly in the promised path, its pieces crashlanding in the ocean hundreds of kilometers away from and short of the stay-clear zones. Its payload failed achieve orbit--something the Iranians, with a much younger rocket program, managed to do.
(This should not be construed to be a knock on Iran's achievement. Rocket science is hard.)
The Taepodong does not represent much of an improvement in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea's strategic or economic positions. "You do as I say, or else I might target the Diet Building, possibly hitting Niigata or Utsunomiya," prompts a smile, not fear. The incredible inaccuracy demonstrated undermines the sales pitch ("Target Tel Aviv and you might hit Damascus! Hey, come back!")
Somehow all the buildup and brouhaha about the rocket's potential reach and destructive power, the rather pedestrian point of North Korea's having hundreds of thousands of its citizens already on Japanese soil, capable of wreaking havoc if ordered, seems to have been forgotten. If actually hurting citizens of Japan or destroying the Japanese government were ever a goal, why would a rocket be necessary? In 1995, a small band of ideologically-driven crazies was able to kill 12, maim hundreds and shut down the main arteries of transportation at the vital center of Japan's capital. Imagine what a few hundred North Korean agents could do. That the North Koreans have heretofore not made use of this immense tactical advantage indicates that North Korea's government and leaders are not really in the "let's destroy Japan" business in a serious way.
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