The United States has told Japan that the Taepodong-2 missile fired July 5 by North Korea exploded in midair within 1.5 km of the launchpad, not 400 to 600 km away as the Japanese government had initially estimated, sources said Saturday.
Japan had earlier estimated the missile reached well into the Sea of Japan.
According to the sources, U.S. satellite information suggests the Taepodong-2 exploded in midair above a northeastern region of North Korea or over its territorial waters on the rim of the Sea of Japan about 40 seconds after being fired at 4:59 a.m.
The debris fell almost vertically, the satellite telemetry suggested.
The Taepodong-2 missile, estimated as potentially being able to reach as far as parts of the U.S. state of Alaska, was among seven rockets North Korea launched that day.
A U.S. satellite spotted objects purported to be debris from the missile, but details such as what caused the explosion remain unknown, according to the sources.
The Defense Agency earlier estimated, based on information including data from the United States, that the missile exploded in midair roughly 10 minute after launch, 400 to 600 km down range from the Musudanri missile base in North Hamgyong Province.
Japanese and U.S. government analysis has so far indicated that the Taepodong-2 exploded and fell after a booster failed to separate properly, due apparently to an unspecified anomaly that occurred when the booster was in action right after the launch.
The sources also said Japanese and U.S. warships equipped with the advanced Aegis tracking system deployed in the Sea of Japan and the Pacific successfully determined the flight paths of the second, fourth, fifth and seventh missile fired July 5.
These are believed to have been short-range Scuds and midrange Rodong missiles, they said.
But the high-tech warships apparently failed to accurately follow the other three missiles, including the Taepodong-2, they added.
Japan will continue to analyze the latest findings and will release a report on the incident, possibly in early August.
The missile launches prompted the U.N. Security Council to unanimously adopt a resolution condemning the act.
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