- North Korea flight-tested a new long-range cruise missile
Monday, not a short-range, 1950s-era weapon as first reported, U.S. intelligence
officials said yesterday.
Intelligence data from the test contradicted statements by Secretary
of State Colin L. Powell, who told reporters Tuesday that the test was
a "fairly innocuous" firing of an old missile.
"It appears to be a Silkworm variant that they [North Koreans]
modified to get a longer range," said one U.S. official, speaking
on the condition of anonymity.
Initial reports said the missile test, which occurred hours before
South Korea's new president, Roh Moo-hyun, was inaugurated in Seoul, involved
a short-range Russian Styx anti-ship missile with a range of about 50 miles.
- Further analysis of intelligence data collected on
the flight test sharply changed the estimate of the missile's capability,
and thus its importance in the international community's current standoff
with North Korea over its nuclear weapons program.
- The Washington Times first disclosed the existence
of the new North Korean cruise missile in 1997, when it was test fired
for the first time.
The missile was identified as a long-range variant of China's HY-2
Silkworm missile and dubbed the AG-1 by the Pentagon. The first test launch
was May 23, 1997, from a military base at the Angol army barracks in northeastern
It could not be learned where Monday's test took place.
Based on the early intelligence information, Mr. Powell told reporters
in Seoul that the test "seems to be a fairly innocuous kind of test,
a short range, surface-to-surface naval missile that goes out maybe 60
or so miles."
"From what I have been able to determine, it's a fairly old system,"
said Mr. Powell, who was in South Korea to attend the presidential inauguration.
Mr. Powell said the test had been expected because North Korea had
announced a "notice to mariners" to stay clear of areas off the
coast of North Korea. "I didn't find it particularly surprising or
shocking or disturbing that one occurred today," Mr. Powell said.
State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said yesterday that Mr. Powell
did not intentionally misspeak in Seoul. The secretary's remarks were based
on preliminary information available to all U.S. government agencies at
the time, Mr. Reeker said in an interview.
Mr. Powell, however, in the past has sought to down play the problems
caused by North Korea's nuclear program, saying the latest developments
are not a crisis.
U.S. intelligence officials said additional tests by Pyongyang are
expected in coming days and the launch facility is being closely watched.
U.S. intelligence agencies are worried the cruise-missile test is
part of renewed long-range missile testing by North Korea, which was halted
after the 1998 flight test of a Taepodong-2 long-range missile. "That's
a concern," one U.S. official said.
The new anti-ship cruise missile is estimated to have a maximum range
of just under 100 miles, the officials said.
The new cruise-missile test, while not the first, is a significant
increase in missile power for North Korea. The long range gives Pyongyang's
military an "over the horizon" strike capability that could be
launched against U.S. aircraft carriers and warships, according to U.S.
Earlier estimates had put the missile's range at about 60 miles.
The missile fired by North Korea is an advanced, homemade version
of the Chinese Silkworm anti-ship missile, which has a range of about 60
China's HY-2 Silkworm is an updated version of the Russian SSN-2 Styx
The officials said the missile test appeared to be the latest effort
by North Korea's communist government to flex its muscles. Tension has
been high on the Korean Peninsula since Pyongyang announced late last year
that it was resuming its nuclear program.
A North Korean diplomat suggested several weeks ago that Pyongyang
might resume missile flight tests and lift the self-imposed testing moratorium.
U.S. officials fear North Korea will sell the cruise missiles, as
it has done with its arsenal of ballistic missiles.
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