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North Korean Missile Test May Be Imminent

Posted September. 23, 2004 22:01,   


The United States, Japan, and South Korea have increased security measures after detecting signs of a possible North Korean test launch of its Rohdong ballistic missile (range: approximately 1,300km).

The Japanese Self Defense Force has dispatched its Aegis destroyers as well as a surveillance aircraft to the East Sea on a 24-hour reconnaissance mission.

In 1993, North Korea test launched a Rohdong missile towards the Japanese islands.

On September 21, a Korean Defense Ministry official said, “U.S. and Korean intelligence agencies have caught on to recent North Korean missile-related activities. However, we have yet to confirm whether the activities are regular North Korean missile training activities or whether they are related to an actual test launch.”

He also added, “Since we cannot exempt the possibility of a missile test launch, Korean and U.S. intelligence agencies are continuously tracking their activities.”

The Japanese Yomiuri Shimbun reported through a Japanese government informant that a U.S.-Japanese analysis of satellite imagery and radio interceptions proved that on the afternoon of September 21, North Korean soldiers and missile technicians were assembled at an eastern Rohdong missile launch facility.

However, since most of the missile launch facilities are situated underground, it could not be confirmed whether liquid fuel had been injected into any missiles or whether any of missiles were moved to their launch pads. U.S. and Japanese officials said that it could take up to two weeks for the North Koreans to prepare for an actual launch.

U.S. and Japanese officials are keeping a close eye on North Korean activity in the area since the Rohdong missile launch facility is right next to the underground Taepodong missile (range: 3,500km-6,000km or more) launch facility.

The Rohdong missiles deployed along North Korea’s East Sea coastline are capable of hitting targets anywhere in Japan except Okinawa, the most southern part of Japan.

On the afternoon of September 21, the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force sent one Aegis destroyer and an EP-3 electronic surveillance aircraft to the region to increase its surveillance of North Korean activities.

Won-Jae Park Ho-Won Choi parkwj@donga.com bestiger@donga.com