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Korea Depends on US for Data on North

Posted June. 22, 2006 03:06,   


There is some indication that the crisis over North Korea’s possible missile test is becoming a barometer showing Korea’s limits on its ability to collect information on North Korea.

Since the North’s missile launching issue was sparked at the middle of last month, the Korean government and the military authorities had no other option but to depend on the U.S.’s intelligence and information utilizing high-tech military equipments.

A picture taken by the U.S.’s spy satellite is the only information on the current situation of the North’s missile launching site located in Musudan-ri, Hwadae-gun, North Hamgyong Province.

The built-in electronic optical camera of spy satellite KH-12, which is being operated by the U.S. Air Force Space Command, is able to discern a 10-centimeter object at a height of 600 to 700 kilometers.

Black and white pictures taken by this satellite are transmitted to the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) under the National Security Council (NSC) through a communication satellite in an earth orbit in real time.

In addition, synthesized aperture radar (SAR) built in the spy satellite Lacrosse is capable of observing the ground and taking pictures with a resolution of one meter, even at night and in bad weather. Japan also is operating a number of spy satellites with a level of one meter resolution.

The reconnaissance planes (RC-135s) deployed at Kadena air base in Okinawa, which are equipped with infrared sensors and state of the art optical cameras, can precisely track down the trace and impact point of the North’s missile as well as the sign of launching by the North.

Besides, the picture of the North’s military facilities in deep inland taken by the high-altitude reconnaissance plane U-2, run by the U.S. Armed Forces in Korea (USFK), at the stratosphere of 25-30 kilometers appear on the screen at the underground bunker of Combined Forces Command (CFC) in real time. The U-2 is also equipped with bugging equipment capable of wiretapping landline and mobile communication taking place around the North’s missile base.

In addition, the U.S. Navy’s reconnaissance plane EP-3 will track all the wireless radar at North Korea’s military facilities, the U.S.’s Aegis ship fielded on the East Sea and the Observation Island, the vessel for observing missiles operated by the U.S. Forces in Japan, collect information on signs of the North’s missile test.

Meanwhile, the Korea Multi-Purpose Satellite (KOMPSAT)-1 has a six-plus meter resolution but its resolution decreases to 10 plus meter range when it doesn’t accurately go over the observation area.

The Korean military operates the spy plane “Baekdu” and image information gathering plane “Geumgang,” but their spying range and ability to collect information have limits. Other than this, unit for wiretapping of North Korea under the Joint Chiefs of Staff bugs the wire lines and wireless network in North Korea.

Against this backdrop, the Korean military currently gets 100 percent of strategy information and 70 percent of tactical information from the USFK. Regarding the signal intelligence on North Korea and image data, it depends on the U.S. more than 90 percent.

As a result, if the U.S. selectively provides confidential information on the North or refuses to offer any, it could be a serious blow to the Korean military’s information network on North Korea.

A military official noted, “Some within and outside the military say that so long as the Korean military heavily depends on the U.S. for early warning service and information asset, it would be very difficult for Korea to regain wartime operational control from the U.S. within some five years.”

Sang-Ho Yun ysh1005@donga.com