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North Korean Missiles More Accurate Than Earlier Estimated

By | August 14, 2006

      North Korean missiles may have a greater capability for accuracy than some observers have stated, according to a report in the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper.

      Six of seven missiles that North Korea fired on July 5 (July 4 in the United States) impacted within a target zone that had been put off-limits to ships before the tests, the Japanese government found, according to the newspaper.

      Rodong and Scud missiles hit the target area in the ocean, indicating that the tests were a success, the paper continued.

      That success story contrasts sharply with comments in the United States by some lawmakers, military experts and journalists, who sarcastically dismissed the North Korean missile tests as “six Scuds and a dud.”

      That last refers to the fact that the one long-range Taepo Dong-2 missile that North Korea launched failed early in its first stage, with the missile destroyed. Some analysts had been concerned prior to the launch that North Korea might be about to launch the missile into or near the United States.

      North Korea, aside from violating international curbs on its missile development program, also violated global norms against proliferation when it announced it is producing nuclear weapons.

      Some lawmakers and Pentagon leaders have expressed concern that North Korea at some point may downsize those nukes and mount them on a missile that could reach Alaska, the West Coast of the United States, Toronto and Washington.

      The newspaper quoted an unnamed Japanese government source as saying that “targeting accuracy of the Rodong and Scud missiles was high to a certain degree, and it proved the missiles are operational.”

      They landed in a restricted area that North Korea beforehand had closed to ships in the Sea of Japan, a square patch of the sea about 160 kilometers (99.4 miles) on each side, according to the paper.

      Each of the missiles traveled some 300 to 400 kilometers (186.4 to 248.5 miles) from a launching site in southeastern North Korea, the report stated.

      The missiles all landed within an area with a radius of about 50 kilometers (31.1 miles), according to the government estimate.

      As North Korea launched the missiles, U.S. missile defense systems tracked the ballistic paths carefully. It is thought the Missile Defense Agency and the various missile shield components weren’t committed to shooting down any North Korean missile unless it threatened the United States or its allies.

      During the North Korean missile testing, the United States government was focused on the NASA launch of the Space Shuttle Discovery, a picture-perfect mission to the International Space Station that ended with no damage to the orbiter vehicle.

      That was just the second shuttle launch mission since Space Shuttle Columbia was destroyed Feb. 1, 2003, because of damage the orbiter suffered when foam insulation broke off its external fuel tank and punched a hole in the orbiter wing. The crew was lost. NASA since has taken multiple precautionary moves to lessen the danger of any foam breaking loose, and to inspect orbiter vehicles carefully for any damage before reentry.

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