N. Korean test activates US shield


Richard Moore

Original source URL:

The Washington Times

N. Korean threat activates shield
By Bill Gertz
Published June 20, 2006

The Pentagon activated its new U.S. ground-based 
interceptor missile defense system, and officials 
announced yesterday that any long-range missile 
launch by North Korea would be considered a 
"provocative act."

     Poor weather conditions above where the 
missile site was located by U.S. intelligence 
satellites indicates that an immediate launch is 
unlikely, said officials who spoke on the 
condition of anonymity.

     However, intelligence officials said 
preparations have advanced to the point where a 
launch could take place within several days to a 

     Two Navy Aegis warships are patrolling near 
North Korea as part of the global missile defense 
and would be among the first sensors that would 
trigger the use of interceptors, the officials 
said yesterday.

     The U.S. missile defense system includes 11 
long-range interceptor missiles, including nine 
deployed at Fort Greeley, Alaska, and two at 
Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. The system was 
switched from test to operational mode within the 
past two weeks, the officials said.

     One senior Bush administration official told 
The Washington Times that an option being 
considered would be to shoot down the Taepodong 
missile with responding interceptors.

     Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice added 
that any launch would be a serious matter and 
"would be taken with utmost seriousness and 
indeed a provocative act."

     White House spokesman Tony Snow declined to 
comment when asked if shooting down a launched 
missile was being considered as an option.

     President Bush had telephoned more than a 
dozen heads of state regarding North Korea's 
launch preparations, Mr. Snow said. He did not 
identify the leaders who were called by Mr. Bush.

     Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said the 
U.S. has made it clear to North Korea that the 
communist regime should abide by the missile-test 
ban it imposed in 1999 and reaffirmed in a pact 
with Japan in 2002.

     "The United States has a limited missile 
defense system," Mr. Whitman said. He declined to 
say if the system is operational or whether it 
would be used.

     "U.S. Northern Command continues to monitor 
the situation, and we are prepared to defend the 
country in any way necessary," said spokesman 
Michael Kucharek.

     Any decision to shoot down a missile would be 
made at the highest command levels, which 
includes the president, secretary of defense and 
chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

     In Tokyo, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi 
said Japan and South Korea are trying to avert a 

     "Even now, we hope that they will not do 
this," Mr. Koizumi said. "But if they ignore our 
views and launch a missile, then the Japanese 
government, consulting with the United States, 
would have to respond harshly."

     John R. Bolton, the U.S. ambassador to the 
United Nations, said the Bush administration is 
consulting with other Security Council members on 
how to respond to a Taepodong launch.

     In Australia, Foreign Minister Alexander 
Downer said North Korea's ambassador had been 
summoned and told any missile launch would result 
in "serious consequences."

     U.S. intelligence officials said there are 
signs that the North Koreans recently began 
fueling the Taepodong with highly corrosive 
rocket fuel. Normally, when liquid fuel is loaded 
into missiles the missile must be fired within 
five to 10 days, or it must be de-fueled and the 
motors cleaned, a difficult and hazardous process.

     The Taepodong was first tested in August 
1998, and North Korea claimed that it was a space 
launch vehicle that orbited a satellite. U.S. 
intelligence officials said the last stage of the 
missile was powered but did not reach orbit. A 
new test would likely be a more advanced version.

     "Our concerns about missile activity in North 
Korea are long-standing and well-documented," 
said Mr. Whitman, the Pentagon spokesman.

     The test preparations began several weeks 
after the Bush administration imposed new rules 
on U.S. companies that prohibit American or 
foreign firms incorporated in the United States 
from flying North Korea's flag on merchant ships.

     According to the Treasury Department, Korean 
War-era sanctions were loosened in 2000 in order 
to entice North Korea into abiding by the missile 
flight test ban.

     One reason for the concerns about a launch is 
that North Korea has issued threatening 
statements through its official press and 
broadcast organs that it is ready to go to war 
with states such as Japan and the United States 
that impose economic sanctions.

     *This article is based in part on wire service reports.

Copyright © 2006 News World Communications, Inc. All rights reserved.
Copyright The Washington Times

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