Possibility of Further Launches
It has been reported that North Korea plans to test further missiles. On July 6, according to Yonhap News, South Korean defense minister Yoon Kwang-ung said South Korean intelligence suggests more missiles may be fired, and on July 7, the Mainichi Daily News reported Japanese and U.S. officials believe a second Taepodong-2 has been delivered to the launch site. Although Kwang-ung said intelligence presumes a second Taepondong-2 had been transported to the launch pad before the first one was fired, he denied North Korea was going to test a second one. He stated South Korean intelligence still needs to confirm that the missile is still there. In addition, Japanese officials say North Korea would not launch another Taepodong because of trouble with the missile's booster. The Chosun Ilbo had reported a South Korean government official said a second missile is believed to be stored at Taepo-dong, North Hamgyong Province in an assembly building. The American television network NBC had also reported a second Taepodong missile is in the final stages of assembly.
According to the Japanese newspaper Sankei Shimbun, given the trajectory and angle, the target for the Taepodong 2 missile may have been the waters around Hawaii. However, the Sankei report is disputed by many, and the Japanese Defense Agency refused to confirm. Pentagon officials said Thursday that the brief flight of the Taepodong-2 missile made it difficult to collect useful technical data, including its intended target, its payload and whether it was a two-stage or three-stage missile. Some U.S. officials were even leaning toward the theory that it was configured as a space launch to deliver a satellite into orbit, rather than as a flight test of a ballistic missile. The Economist believes that the launch was used to prove to other countries, potential buyers of the missile (i.e. Iran), that the technology works. This is just like the 1993 missile launch which was used to sell Iran missiles.
The Taepodong-2 missile was first reported by Japan to have travelled 500–640 km from its launch site, Musudan-ri. However, this has been disputed first on July 7 by bloggers and later on July 10 by security experts, using simple physics calculation. They estimated that the most likely outcome is that it fell 1.4 km from the launch pad and attained a maximum altitude of 4.4 km, and that "almost certainly" it was a satellite launch at an inclination of 41 degrees or perhaps a three stage booster dummy warhead launch to impact down range in the south Pacific relative to South America. This has later been confirmed by US DoD and Japan's Defense Agency on July 30. The range is revised to be about 1.5 km from the launch site in North Korean waters.
Fox News and several major South Korean newspapers have reported three to five missiles are currently on the launchpad, though none are Taepodong missiles. When queried by Reuters, a U.S. intelligence official confirmed that a second Taepodong-2 is not on the launchpad. North Korea has barred people from sailing into some areas off the coast until July 11, 2006. Some believe this is a sign of preparations for additional launches.
On July 20, 2006 US officials reported that one or more Iranian officials may have been present at the missile launch.
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