Friday, July 07, 2006

North Korean Missiles

North Korea test-fired a number of missiles this week including its short to medium range missiles -- Scuds, Rodongs and Taepodong-2 models. All were fired from missile bases on its east coast within the span of a few hours. All landed in the Sea of Japan except their big one, which failed.

The Taepodong 2 intercontinental missile launched on 5 July was aimed at an area of the ocean close to Hawaii. The Taepodong-2 ballistic missile is estimated to have a range of up to 6,000 km, putting Alaska within its reach. The launch apparently failed shortly after take-off and the missile landed in the sea between the Korean peninsula and Japan, a few hundred kilometres from the launch pad.

The United States, China, Japan, South Korea, Canada and Russia are weighing their response to Pyongyang's decision Wednesday to test-fire six missiles in the Pacific. Like Iran, North Korea refuses to end its nuclear weapons program.

On the diplomatic front, Pentagon officials say China's government failed utterly to come through on private pledges to the Bush administration to halt North Korea's missile tests.

This raises the debate over the merits of a world-class missile defense system -- a funded Strategic Defense Initiative. Bush said that the United States had a reasonable chance of shooting down the long-range missile, if it had not failed.
Currently, a fledgling U.S. missile defense system has deployed 11 interceptor missiles in Alaska and California. Its reliability has been questioned, however. Between October 1999 and October 2002, five tests of the interceptor were conducted. One failed. The other four shot down space-borne reentry vehicles of the kind that would carry an enemy warhead into the United States. Since then, the interceptor has failed three straight tests.

The Defense Department’s Missile Defense Agency eventually aims at deploying systems that can stop enemy missiles in all phases of flight -- boost, midcourse and terminal. Patriot missiles deployed by the U.S. overseas can stop short-range missiles in their terminal phase. The interceptors deployed in Alaska and California are supposed to be able to stop long range missiles in midcourse. And missiles that will be launched from 3 U.S. Navy cruisers and 15 destroyers are designed to stop mid-range missiles in midcourse. (Phased deployment of these ships will start this fall.)
A less expensive option might be to establish an NBA franchise in Pyongyang comping Kim Jong-il a suite with Madeline Albright, Jimmy Carter and John Kerry as his viewing partners and Pyongyang "Laker" girls providing him his half-time entertainment.

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