North Korea leader Kim Jong-un arrives at
center, where a Unha-3 rocket is being prepared for launch. For
the first time, its range is thought to take in the Western U.S.
America in Range of North Korean Rocket (The Hankyoreh,
ignition time for the first stage of the rocket that failed last April was 130
seconds, we estimate that this model could travel 10,000 km ... The Unha-2
[that was launched] in 2009 could only hit Alaska. The Unha-3 rocket being
launched this time around can target the U.S. West Coast ... The fact that it
can reach the continental United States makes a big difference in terms of
-- Unidentified South
Korea military official
By Ha Eo-young, staff
reporter and Park Hyun, Washington correspondent
5, North Korea finished launch pad preparations for a three-stage rocket. The
rocket is believed to have a range of 10,000 kilometers [6213 miles], which
would allow it to reach Los Angeles, on the west coast of the United States.
"On the launch pad at the Tangchai-ri
Village missile launch site in Cheolsan County,
analysts believe that North Korea has placed all three stages of a Unha-3
rocket," said a South Korean government official. After radar and optical
cameras and other observation and measurement equipment are installed to track
the course of the rocket, it is believed that the North will begin testing.
Since the North has said it will launch the rocket between
the 10th and the 22nd of this month [December], the fueling of the rocket
should begin on the 8th or 9th.
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"Even if they fuel the rocket earlier than the tenth,
which is the first day of the announced launch period, waiting another ten days
before launch won't be a problem," said a military source. "Even
though it's winter, the installation of anti-heat and anti-humidity systems
leads us to believe that there won't be a problem with the launch."
Radio Free Asia, an American radio broadcaster, reported
that vehicles assumed to be fueling or maintenance trucks were seen in GeoEye satellite images.
"Since the ignition time for the first stage of the
rocket that failed last April was 130 seconds, we estimate that this model
could travel 10,000 km," an army missile expert said regarding the
rocket's range. "Since North Korean officials have indicated they plan to
use the Unha-3 rocket as they did last time, we believe the range is the
same." That is compared to the Unha-3 rocket, which was launched in 2009
and had an estimated range of at least 6,700km.
"The Unha-3 from 2009 could only hit Alaska. The Unha-3
rocket being launched this time around can target the U.S. West Coast," a
military official said. "The fact that it can reach the continental United
States makes a big difference in terms of strategy."
The Unha-3 one-stage rocket fired in 2009 used propellant
from the Rodong 2B missile. Military analysts believe
that the propellant in the Unha-3 missile is from the significantly better Rodong 2C missile.
With the North Korean rocket launch expected soon, South
Korea, the United States and Japan have been rushing to prepare. On December 4
(local time), South Korean Special Representative for Korean Peninsula Peace
and Security affairs Lim Sung-nam met to discuss
possible responses at the Pentagon with Glyn Davies, U.S. State Department
special representative for North Korea.
"The United States and Korea have agreed to raise the
diplomatic pressure to keep North Korea from carrying out the launch," Lim
told reporters after the meeting. "We also agreed to step up efforts to
persuade China and Russia to join in these efforts."
When asked if Lim and his American counterparts had
discussed further financial sanctions on North Korea, he replied, "We
haven't gone there yet."
As it happened, Lim's Japanese counterpart at the six-party
talks, Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau
Director-General Sugiyama Shinsuke, was also visiting
Washington. This allowed the chief six-party negotiators from Korea, Japan, and
the US to have an "informal discussion," Lim said, adding that they
were all in agreement about the US and Korean position.
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