Tuesday, June 30, 2009

July 4, Scrabble, and whales

You know the story: excuse me for not writing for a long time. I hope I can make up for that with a brief post on our missile-madness poster child: DPRK.

North Korea will likely fire short- or mid-range missiles off its east coast from which it has banned shipping, a senior South Korean government official said last week. South Korean government sources were quoted saying that the Norks are expected fire Scuds with a range of up to 500 kilometers or ground-to-ship missiles with a 160-km range into the Sea of Japan (East Sea).

Another rumor says that Kim Jong-il intends to turn the test launch into a strange July 4 congratulation by firing a long-range missile towards Hawaii. Japan's defense ministry believes that North Korea might now be planning to launch a two-stage or three-stage Taepodong-2 missile towards the U.S. state. With a range of 4,000-6,500 kilometers the missile would fall into the ocean before reaching Hawaii, which is located more than 7,000 kilometers from the Korean peninsula. However, besides killing a few fish or disturbing a stray whale, this would send a strong signal that the DPRK is trying to intensify the intimidation tactics and that it is going to continue to up the stakes in the standoff. The vice chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff is quoted by the LA Times that the West Coast of the United States may be vulnerable to such an attack within three years. However, North Korea is unlikely to be able to develop a nuclear warhead by then.

With all the attention paid to Pyongyang, Russia reminded the world that it wants to have its share of the limelight. North Korea is unlikely to fire a missile rocket in the direction of Russia, but if it does, the anti-missile defense system would destroy the missile in seconds, Russia's General Staff of the Armed Forces said. Thank you for mentioning that. One has to admit, that the comment made by President Obama was equally helpful: “I do want to give assurances to the American people that the T’s are crossed and the I’s are dotted in terms of what might happen,” Obama said in an interview.

Defense Secretary Gates has joined Obama on the Scrabble front. He ordered the deployment of a ground-based, mobile missile intercept system and radar system to Hawaii. North Korea reached new levels of absurdity by criticizing the U.S. for positioning missile defense systems, calling the deployment part of a plot to attack the regime and saying it would bolster its nuclear arsenal in retaliation.

While Obama and Gates work on calligraphy and the alphabet, other U.S. officials are downplaying any imminent threat of a North Korean missile strike. The U.S. intelligence community does not believe North Korea intends to launch a long-range missile in the near future, a U.S. intelligence official told CNN.

If the launch will not occur on July 4, another option for the launch is July 8, because the 15th anniversary of the former North Korean president Kim Il-Sung's death will fall on this day. The test launch could officially be interpreted as a tribute of Commander Kim’s tribute to his grandfather. Soon we will know more…

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