North Korea's Ballistic Balladeer

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That North Korean "missile launch" that looked at first like a warning shot across Japan's bow now turns out to be something much less threatening. According to Pyongyang, it was a launch vehicle that put into orbit a small telecommunications satellite designed to broadcast hymns of praise to former President Kim Il Sung. The U.S. on Monday confirmed the launch of a "very small satellite," but says that its spies in the sky can't hear a thing; the theory in Washington is that the bird may have been a dud that it is now broadcasting musical propaganda from the bottom of the sea.

But nobody is resting easy about North Korea's missile capabilities. "Whether it was a satellite or a ballistic missile, it remains a threat to the rest of Asia," says TIME national security correspondent Douglas Waller. "The launch shows that Asia's rogue state has mastered multistage rocket technology, and that will be cause for concern among those countries within its range."