North Korea’s launch of a Taepodong-2 ballistic missile ended in failure, even though Pyongyang counted it as a success along with the test-firing of six other shorter-range missiles, a top Defense Agency official said Thursday.
Although Pyongyang announced that all seven launches Wednesday succeeded, the Defense Agency pondered ways Pyongyang might have shortened the flying time of the Taepodong-2, whose reported range of up to 6,000 km could put the U.S. mainland within its reach, and concluded it did not use any of those options, including aborting the missile in flight.
While the agency drew no conclusions, their deductions imply that a successful launch would have sent the Taepodong-2 closer toward the United States, because Alaska would be within its range.
The missile came down into the Sea of Japan off Vladivostok, Russia, after traveling a few hundred kilometers.
But whether the Taepodong-2 failed or was aborted where it went down intentionally is a point of debate among experts.
Some analysts said Pyongyang may have kept it from going beyond the Sea of Japan to avoid antagonizing the United States.
However, Takemasa Moriya, administrative vice defense minister, claimed during a news conference that controlling the Taepodong-2’s flight would require advanced technology that North Korea probably doesn’t have.
“Considering the situation in a comprehensive manner, we believe (the launch) ended in failure,” he said, adding U.S. intelligence officials share the same view.
According to a Defense Agency source, there are two main ways to shorten an intercontinental ballistic missile’s flight — shutting down its engines in midflight or giving it a very steep trajectory. These options can be complex and it is believed Pyongyang did not try either of them Wednesday.
Japanese news reports quoted several experts as saying the North may have minimized the Taepodong-2’s fuel load, but the agency source said this would affect the balance of the missile.
“A long-range missile is huge, because it requires powerful rocket engines and enough fuel to keep it flying,” Moriya said.
“There are technological problems in maintaining stable flight over a long distance.”
Koizumi, Bush agree
Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and U.S. President George W. Bush agreed Thursday to work closely together toward the adoption of a Japan-sponsored resolution at the U.N. Security Council to impose sanctions over North Korea’s missile launches, according to a Japanese government official.
In a 10-minute telephone conversation initiated by Washington, the two leaders also shared the view that it is important for the international community to stand united and send a strong message to Pyongyang, the Foreign Ministry said.
They also reaffirmed that Japan and the United States will send a clear message to the world that the two nations will deal with North Korea with a firm stance and will not turn a blind eye to Pyongyang’s missile launches and nuclear arms program, according to the official, who declined to be named.
The Japan-led draft resolution, which was circulated Wednesday after the U.N. Security Council convened emergency consultations in response to the launches, condemns North Korea’s actions and calls on Pyongyang to immediately cease the development, testing, deployment and proliferation of ballistic missiles, and reconfirm its launch moratorium.