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Behind North’s jubilation was anxiety

Questions arise over rocket science technological advances by Pyongyang

Apr 08,2009
South Korean intelligence sources said there was confusion and anxiety behind North Korea’s celebratory facade after what it claimed a successful satellite launch on Sunday.

An intelligence source told the JoongAng Ilbo that Pyongyang was “in a state of confusion” following the rocket launch.

Officials from the United States and South Korea have said no object entered orbit, but the source said that wasn’t the reason for disquiet in the North Korean capital.

According to the source, North Korean officials were on the edge of their seats before the launch because of their primitive technology, and some said it was a wonder that the rocket even got off the pad.

South Korean sources said the North decided to send merchant vessels to the East Sea and to the Pacific Ocean, around projected landing areas for the rocket’s boosters.

The North wanted to have experts out in the sea to track the rocket but it did not want to send a warship that close to Japan.

However, the engine of a ship it sent to the Pacific broke down. South Korean sources said North Korean officials were busy trying to pass the buck for the problem.

South Korean sources said the North’s officials actually did not know where the rocket had traveled. The North does not own a high-tech radar system that tracks objects for thousands of kilometers.

South Korea’s radar on its Aegis destroyer King Sejong the Great tracked the rocket up to 1,000 kilometers (621 miles), while the more advanced radars of the United States and Japan followed it the rest of the way.

North Korea could not keep track of its second booster, which reportedly traveled about 3,100 kilometers east of its launch base in Musudan-ri, northeast of the peninsula.

It took nearly four hours after the launch for North Korea to announce its satellite had reached orbit. South Korean sources said the North took time to analyze data from the South, Japan and the United States before making the call.

Hwang Eui-don, a general in intelligence in the South’s defense ministry, told a legislative committee that the North flew fighters and bombers after its pre-launch preparations leaked.

But the South’s sources said a MiG-21 fighter jet crashed due to inadequate maintenance.

Meanwhile, U.S. Marine Corps General James Cartwright, vice chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke of the unlikelihood that the rocket launch would increase the danger of North Korean proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

“On the idea of proliferation, would you buy from somebody who had failed three times in a row and never been successful?” said Cartwright.

A South Korean government official said, on condition of anonymity, that it remained unclear whether the second and the third stages of the rocket had separated before they plunged into the Pacific Ocean, saying, “It will take up to a week to determine that, following additional analysis.”



By Lee Young-jong, Yoo Jee-ho [jeeho@joongang.co.kr]



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