Thursday, April 2, 2009
* Image source/ caption*
Yahoo News Com below
'Japan Ground Self-Defense Force personnel stands near PAC-3, land-to-air missle, set up at a base amid North Korea's planned rocket launch in Akita, northern Japan, Tuesday, March 31, 2009. Batteries of PAC-3 land-to-air missile interceptors have been sent to two northern prefectures that the North Korea's rocket is expected to fly over. (AP Photo/Katsumi Kasahara)'
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April 2, 2009 North Korea Threatens to Down U.S. Surveillance Planes By CHOE SANG-HUN
SEOUL, South Korea — Escalating its anti-foreign vitriol, North Korea threatened on Wednesday to shoot down American military planes it said were spying on the site of its impending rocket launching.
In mid-March, North Korea’s regime announced that it would launch a satellite into orbit between Saturday and next Wednesday. Since then, it has warned that any attempt to interrupt the launching will be considered an act of war.
“If the brigandish U.S. imperialists dare to infiltrate spy planes into our airspace to interfere with our peaceful satellite launch preparations, our revolutionary armed forces will mercilessly shoot them down,” the North’s state-run Korea Central Radio said.
The broadcast accused the United States of deploying RC-135 surveillance aircraft to spy on the Musudan-ri launch site near the North’s northeast coast. North Korea regularly accuses American surveillance aircraft of intruding into its airspace, a claim the United States military dismisses as propaganda. Its threats to shoot them down reflects the overall tension between the United States and North Korea over the planned rocket launching.
The United States, South Korea and Japan say that North Korea is using the launching to test its long-range missile technology, a violation of a 2006 United Nations resolution banning the country from all ballistic missile tests.
They warned that if North Korea presses ahead with it, they will seek punishment for the North at the Security Council.
As the launching date approached, a growing number of analysts in Seoul who have studied the latest satellite images of the North Korean rocket appeared to believe that the rocket may have been configured to put a satellite into orbit. The rocket appears to have a bulb-shaped tip that gives credence to the North’s claim it will carry a satellite, they said.
Whether it is a satellite or missile launching, it violates the United Nations resolution because it uses the same technology, South Korean officials said.
Expert: NKorea has several nuclear warheads
By PAUL ALEXANDER, Associated Press Writer Paul Alexander
Tue Mar 31, 10:42 am ET
SEOUL, South Korea – Nuclear-armed North Korea warned Japan on Tuesday that intervening in Pyongyang's impending rocket launch would be considered an act of war.
North Korea says it will send a communications satellite into orbit on a multi-stage rocket between April 4 and 8. The U.S., South Korea and Japan think the communist regime is using the launch to test long-range missile technology, and they warn Pyongyang would face sanctions under a U.N. Security Council resolution banning the country from ballistic activity.
Japan has deployed battleships and Patriot missile interceptors off its northern coast to shoot down any rocket debris that the North has said might fall over the area.
Tokyo has said it is only protecting its territory and has no intention of trying to shoot down the rocket itself, but North Korea said it is not convinced and accused Japan of inciting militarism at home to justify developing a nuclear weapons program of its own.
If Japan tries to intercept the satellite, the North's army "will consider this as the start of Japan's war of re-invasion more than six decades after the Second World War and mercilessly destroy all its interceptor means and citadels with the most powerful military means," the North's official Korean Central News Agency said Tuesday.
China, North Korea's neighbor and often-estranged ally, continued to appeal for all the powers in the region to show restraint and "refrain from any action that would further complicate the situation," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told reporters in Beijing.
But Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso said he is ready to pursue punishment by the Security Council if North Korea fires the rocket, which already is on the launch pad.
"It would be crucial for the international community to make concerted action," Aso told a news conference after both houses of Japan's parliament passed a resolution strongly urging the North to forego the launch.
Daniel Pinkston — a Seoul-based expert for the International Crisis Group think tank, which provides detailed analysis about North Korea — said the communist nation has two underground nuclear warhead storage facilities near bases for its medium-range Rodong missiles, which are capable of striking Japan. The North is believed to have five to eight warheads, he said.
But he stressed it is unclear if the communist nation has mastered the technology necessary to miniaturize the warheads and put them on Rodong missiles, which have a range of 620 to 930 miles (1,000 to 1,500 kilometers).
The National Intelligence Service, South Korea's main spy agency, said it could not confirm Pinkston's claims.
Pinkston said he obtained the information from intelligence officials from a country or countries that he wouldn't identify.
"Their assessment is that North Korea has deployed" and assembled "nuclear warheads for Rodong missiles," Pinkston told The Associated Press.
Kim Tae-woo, a missile expert at the state-run Korea Institute for Defense Analyses in Seoul, said the North has been focusing on efforts to mount nuclear warheads on the Rodongs because the long-range Taepodong series has not been fully deployed yet.
"Rodong is the most likely weapon to be mounted with nuclear warheads," Kim said. He said it's also "natural" for the North to try to put a nuclear warhead on a missile with a longer range.
Two U.S. destroyers are believed to have departed from South Korea to monitor the rocket launch. South Korea is also dispatching its Aegis-equipped destroyer, according to a Seoul military official who asked not to be named, citing department policy.
North Korea claimed Tuesday that the U.S. and South Korea have conducted about 190 spy flights over its territory in March, including over the sea off the launch site on its northeast coast.
Further fueling tensions, hundreds of U.S. and South Korean troops conducted an air assault exercise Tuesday that the two countries have claimed is unrelated to the rocket launch. Pyongyang has strongly condemned similar joint drills in the South as preparations to invade the North.
The two allies conducted large-scale annual exercises for 12 days in March, prompting angry reaction from Pyongyang, including threats to South Korean passenger planes and repeated halts in cross-border traffic.
Adding to the complexity of the situation, the North announced Tuesday it will indict and try two American journalists accused of crossing the border illegally from China on March 17 and engaging in "hostile acts."
The North may try to use the detentions as a bargaining tool after the rocket launch, said Yang Moo-jin, an analyst at Seoul's University of North Korean Studies.
Associated Press writers Jae-soon Chang and Hyung-jin Kim in Seoul, and Shino Yuasa in Tokyo, contributed to this report.