North Korea could have U.S. within missile range, says South

Sun Dec 23, 2012 3:57am EST
 
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By Ju-min Park

SEOUL (Reuters) - This month's rocket launch by reclusive North Korea shows it has likely developed the technology, long suspected in the West, to fire a warhead more than 10,000 km (6,200 miles), South Korean officials said on Sunday, putting the U.S. West Coast in range.

North Korea said the December 12 launch put a weather satellite in orbit but critics say it was aimed at nurturing the kind of technology needed to mount a nuclear warhead on a long-range missile.

North Korea is banned from testing missile or nuclear technology under U.N. sanctions imposed after its 2006 and 2009 nuclear weapons tests and the U.N. Security Council condemned the launch.

South Korea retrieved and analyzed parts of the first-stage rocket that dropped in the waters off its west coast

"As a result of analyzing the material of Unha-3 (North Korea's rocket), we judged North Korea had secured a range of more than 10,000 km in case the warhead is 500-600 kg," a South Korean Defense Ministry official told a news briefing.

North Korea's previous missile tests ended in failure.

North Korea, which denounces the United States as the mother of all warmongers on an almost daily basis, has spent decades and scarce resources to try to develop technology capable of striking targets as far away as the United States and it is also working to build a nuclear arsenal.

But experts believe the North is still years away from mastering the technology needed to miniaturize a nuclear bomb to mount on a missile.   Continued...

 
An undated image released by South Korea's Defence Ministry in Seoul on December 23, 2012, shows a piece of wreckage of North Korea's Unha-3 (Milky Way 3) rocket being pulled up by the South Korean navy. REUTERS/South Korea's Defence Ministry/Handout