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Activity at North Korean Missile Site

Posted May. 20, 2006 02:59,   


Korea and the U.S. are keeping a close eye on North Korea’s actions after obtaining reports that the nation is ready to launch a missile.

According to military sources on May 19, Korean and American intelligence agencies used high-tech surveillance devices such as spy satellites to capture movements of trailers carrying missile-like objects at a missile test site in Musudan-ri (formerly Daepo-dong), Hwadae-gun, North Hamgyong Province.

U.S. spy satellites can differentiate between objects as small as 10 to 15 centimeters from 600 kilometers above ground level, enabling it to survey movements of North Korea’s missile activities.

The missile-like object that is over 30 meters long is most likely “Daepodong-II,” the missile that North Korea has been developing. There is also a possibility that it may be “Daepodong-II Upgrade,” which has a longer range.

“Daepodong-II” is known to be 32 meters long with a range of 4,300 to 6,000 kilometers. Experts estimate that with extra boosters and lighter ballistics, “Daepodong-II Upgrade” has a range up to 15,000 kilometers, placing the entire North American area within firing range.

“Nodong” and “Daepodong-I,” two missiles that North Korea test-fired in May 1993 and August 1998, are intermediate-range missile that can reach 1300 and 2000 kilometers, respectively, but “Daepodong-II” is an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM).

A military analyst said, “We cannot confirm that a missile launch is being prepared until North Korea starts putting fuel into the missile,” adding that “We see it as North Korea’s challenge against pressure asserted by the U.S.”

North Korea had issued a memorandum in March last year that stated, “We are not obliged to withhold the launching of missiles,” leading to speculations that North Korea may be trying to retract regulations against the test-firing of missiles.

Meanwhile, the Japanese government is seeing this as North Korea’s attempt to increase pressure and shake up the U.S. by showing off its ability to launch a missile.

“A missile launch does not seem imminent at this point,” said Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe at a press interview.

Sang-Ho Yun Kwang-Am Cheon ysh1005@donga.com iam@donga.com