U.S. considers N Korea missile test ‘a provocative act’


Richard Moore

Original source URL:


U.S.: North Korean missile fueling complete

Rice says U.S. considers any test of long-range warhead Œa provocative act¹

The Associated Press

Updated: 4:40 p.m. ET June 19, 2006

SEOUL, South Korea - Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice leveled a warning 
Monday the United States would consider a long-range ballistic missile test from
North Korea ³a provocative act.²

Rice¹s remarks came after Bush administration officials said North Korea has 
apparently finished loading fuel into a ballistic missile, the latest signs that
the reclusive communist state will soon test a weapon that could reach the 
United States.

Testing would abrogate several North Korean commitments and ³it would be taken 
with utmost seriousness,² Rice said at a news conference.

U.S. intelligence indicates that the long-range missile, believed to be a 
Taepodong-2, is assembled and fully fueled, said two officials, who requested 
anonymity because the information comes from sensitive intelligence methods.

Rice cited North Korea¹s pledge of a missile moratorium in 1999 and its 
reiteration of the moratorium in 2002. She said North Korea also agreed in 
six-party negotiations not to test long-range missiles.

She said the United States was working very closely with its allies on the 
problem, but did not say what might be done if North Korea tested the missile.

The fueling reportedly gives the North a launch window of about a month. Unlike 
other preparatory steps the United States has tracked, the fueling process is 
very difficult to reverse, and most likely means the test will go ahead, one 
senior administration official said.

The precise timing is unclear, the official said.

The United States assumes North Korea would only perform a test, not fire the 
weapon as an act of war, and could claim afterward that it was launching a space
mission, the official said. That would still be considered a violation of the 
moratorium North Korea has observed since 1999, the official said.

ŒWe don¹t know the intentions¹

The test would probably take place over water, not land, and occur during 
daylight hours, the official said. North Korea is 14 hours ahead of the East 

The United States would probably know ³within seconds² that a launch had taken 
place, the official said.

At the Pentagon, spokesman Bryan Whitman would not comment on whether U.S. 
intelligence indicates that the North Koreans are preparing for a possible 
missile launch. Whitman said the Pentagon uses the term ³launch,² instead of 
test, because of the possibility that the North Koreans have hostile intent.

Whitman would not say whether the United States might activate its missile 
defense systems in the event of a North Korean launch.

A long way off

Although the three-stage Taepodong 2 could theoretically reach the U.S. West 
Coast, most experts think North Korea is still a long way off from perfecting 
the technology that would make the missile accurate and able to carry a nuclear 

Robert Zoellick, the departing deputy secretary of state, said North Korea¹s 
fueling of the missile became known only recently.

At U.N. headquarters in New York, U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said he was 
holding preliminary consultations with Security Council members on steps that 
might be taken if North Korea fires a missile, ³because it would obviously be 
very serious.²

³But we don¹t really know what the North Korean intentions are at this point, so
I think we need to wait for the event,² he said.

³Obviously the first preference is that the North Koreans not light the missile 
off,² Bolton said, noting that the United States, Japan, Australia, South Korea 
and other countries had urged North Korea to abandon any missile firing.


Aboard Air Force One with President Bush, White House spokesman Tony Snow 
declined specific comment on reports that the fueling is complete.

³North Korea has imposed a moratorium on launching missiles,² Snow said. ³We 
hope it will continue that moratorium and we hope it also will abide by 
commitments it made,² last year to dismantle nuclear weapons and renounce 
further development of them.

Snow said President Bush has made some of the administration¹s recent telephone 
calls to more than a dozen heads of state about the indications of a coming 

Snow would not identify which leaders spoke with Bush. He also said U.S. 
officials have talked directly with North Korean representatives in New York, a 
reference to a diplomatic channel through the North¹s United Nations mission. 
Snow would not disclose contents of the discussion, but diplomats from numerous 
countries have been telling the North Koreans to back off any plans for a 
missile test launch.

North Korea says little

North Korea referred to its missile program for the first time Monday, but has 
not said it intends to perform the test.

A North Korean state television broadcast, monitored in Seoul, South Korea, 
cited a Russian editorial on the missile and said the North ³has the due right 
to have a missile that can immediately halt the United States¹ reckless aerial 
espionage activity.²

The North has repeatedly complained in recent weeks about alleged U.S. spy 
planes watching its activities.

A test would be the North¹s first significant missile launch since a 1998 test 
that send a missile over Japanese territory. Pyongyang began a self-imposed test
moratorium in 1999, even while continuing separate development of a nuclear 
weapons program.

North Korea says it needed nuclear weapons and a such potential delivery systems
as a missile to counter what it claims are U.S. intentions to invade or topple 
the government. The United States has repeatedly denied any plans to invade.

© 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be 
published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

URL: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/13361343/

© 2006 MSNBC.com

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