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US Spy Chief: N. Korea Seeks to Launch Rocket

Posted March. 12, 2009 07:55,   


U.S. National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair (photo) said yesterday that North Korea apparently seems to be preparing for a rocket launch, not a missile.

When Democratic Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana asked Blair if he believed North Korea’s claim that it will launch a satellite at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Blair said, “I tend to believe that the North Koreans announced that they are going to do a space launch and I believe that that’s what they intend. I could be wrong but that would be my estimate.”

“There’s a space launch vehicle that North Korea launches, the technology is indistinguishable from intercontinental ballistic missiles. And if a three-stage space launch vehicle works, then that could reach not only Alaska, Hawaii but also part of what the Hawaiians call ‘the Mainland’ and what the Alaskans call ‘the Lower 48.’”

Blair said North Korea has sold ballistic missiles and associated materials to several Middle Eastern countries, including Iran, and, in Washington’s assessment, assisted Syria with the construction of a nuclear reactor. “We remain concerned North Korea could again export nuclear technology,” he said.

Defense Intelligence Agency Director Army Lt. Gen. Michael Maples also said at the hearing, “North Korea’s large, forward-positioned, but poorly-equipped and poorly-trained military is not well-suited to sustain major military operations against the South.”

In his written answer, Maples said, “Should the six-party talks break down, the North is likely to respond with resumed production of nuclear materials at Yongbyon (the site of its main reactor). In such a scenario, additional missiles or nuclear tests could occur.”

In Pyongyang, a spokesman for the North Korean Foreign Ministry said, “The new U.S. administration has released a series of words and deeds enough to provoke us. Moreover, it attempts to forcefully undermine the sovereign rights of our country by collaborating with South Korea.”

The statement was the North’s first official criticism of the Obama administration.

“Under a real threat, we’ll take all measures to protect our sovereign rights,” the spokesman said.

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