N. Korean long-range missile test ruled a failure

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

LONDON North Korea's test launch of its Taepodong-2 intermediate-range ballistic missile has been ruled a failure. Initial speculation included the possibility North Korea had deliberately terminated its flight.

The South Korean military said Pyongyang's Taepodong-2 test on July 5, in a launch attended by Iran, was due to "technical failure." The military said the Taepodong, supplied to Iran, broke up in mid-flight.

"The long-range Taepodong-2 crashed into a beach on the east coast about two kilometers from the launching site after traveling normally for 40 seconds," a spokesman of the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff said.

The South Korean assessment was one of several conducted over the last few weeks. At first, the United States also announced that the Taepodong-2 failed in its first flight, Middle East Newsline reported. Later, U.S. officials said the intelligence community assessed that the launch was meant to test Pyongyang's command and control system.

But the South Korean military, which studied the launch for two months, said Taepodong-2 contained serious technical flaws. Officials said the missile broke up during flight because of a "serious technical disorder."

The latest JCS assessment contrasted with details provided on July 6. At the time, a senior JCS official said Taepo Dong-2 traveled 490 kilometers in almost seven minutes.

"The initial analysis was based on limited intelligence reports," the JCS spokesman said on Sept. 16. "But we could draw this conclusion after intensively analyzing all available intelligence reports by various sources."

The official said six other missiles fired by North Korea on July 5 appeared successful. He said these missiles most of them identified as the No-Dong landed on targets 400 kilometers from the launch site.

In 2005, Iran obtained the Taepodong-2 in what Western intelligence sources said was meant to accelerate Teheran's intercontinental ballistic missile program. North Korea's No-Dong was said to be the basis of Iran's Shihab-3 intermediate-range missile program.

Copyright 2006 East West Services, Inc.

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