The Aug. 31 rocket launch by North Korea was a test firing of its Taepodong-type ballistic missile, and the satellite that Pyongyang insists was carried by the rocket was most likely just an excuse for the test if it did exist, the Defense Agency concluded Friday.The agency submitted its final report on the North Korean rocket launch to the National Defense panel of the Liberal Democratic Party.According to the report, the agency confirmed through the radar systems of the Self-Defense Forces that there was a small object (“object X” in graphic) that was released from the second stage of the missile.The object, which North Korea claims was a satellite, had a solid fuel accelerator and flew for several dozen seconds over the Pacific before it burned itself out, the report says. The trajectory of the “rocket” was flatter than those normally observed in a ballistic missile launch, it added, however. Such a trajectory is more common in a satellite launch.But the object at the tip was apparently equipped with no functional satellite capabilities, the report says. It notes that its payload was not big enough to carry a satellite, that the speed of the object was just half that needed to go into orbit and that radio signals normally sent from satellites were never detected.A senior intelligence official of the agency, who declined to be named, told The Japan Times that what Pyongyang termed the “satellite” released from the second stage was something like a “chunk of iron” with no workable functions.The agency, however, did not completely rule out the “theoretical possibility” that a minute object could have been put into orbit in a similar launch. The agency is believed to have avoided a total denial of the “satellite theory” in consideration of the Foreign Ministry and the U.S. State Department.Washington said in early September that the North Korean rocket launch was a failed attempt to put a satellite into orbit, and observers say the U.S. gave priority to not letting the framework of its talks with North Korea collapse over the incident.Following pressure from the U.S., Japan decided last week to resume financial contributions to an international project to build light-water nuclear reactors in North Korea in exchange for a freeze of the Stalinist state’s alleged nuclear weapons program.Regarding the U.S. Defense Department announcement last month about the possibility that the “object” could have reached near the coast of Alaska, the agency’s Defense Policy Bureau chief, Ken Sato, told the LDP panel Friday that if the object had not ignited and broken into pieces, it could have flown between 4,000 km and 6,000 km due to the propulsion force attached to the object.
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