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South Korea charges North building missile that could reach US

South Korean officials say they have evidence that North Korea is working on an intercontinental ballistic missile that could reach as far as the United States.

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Mr. Kim is quick to add, however, that putting a satellite into orbit “is not their main target.” Rather, he says, the North Koreans want to develop the technology for firing a warhead a long distance – a highly complicated feat..

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The great question is when and how North Korea will test the response of the incoming administrations of both the United States and South Korea. Park Geun-hye, daughter of the long-ruling dictator Park Chung-hee, assassinated by his intelligence chief in 1979, was elected as South Korea’s president last Thursday and is to be inaugurated in February.

“North Korea might be tempted to test John Kerry either by long-range missiles or another nuclear test,” says Lee Chang Choon, a retired South Korean diplomat who
served as ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna. President Obama has nominated Senator John Kerry to replace Hillary Clinton as secretary of state.

North Korea has conducted two previous underground nuclear tests – in October 2006 and again in May 2009 – soon after test-firing long-range missiles.

Kim Tae-woo agrees with that assessment. “Traditionally North Korea may be preparing to test the will of the second Obama government,” he says. “North Korea definitely wants to test Mr. Kerry.”

North Korea has been celebrating the launch of the rocket – and the satellite – with exuberant displays in Pyongyang. North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un, reported by Pyongyang’s Korean Central News Agency to have visited the launch site and personally penned the hand-written order to go ahead with the launch, urged more launches at a dinner Friday honoring scientists, engineers and technicians responsible for the launch 11 days ago. KCNA quoted the North Korean leader as urging them to develop “carrier rockets of bigger capacity” in order to put “a variety of more working satellites” into orbit.

The rocket is believed capable of carrying a payload of 1,200 pounds.

South Korea, says Kim Tae-woo, is developing ballistic missiles with a maxium range of 500 miles – enough to reach any target in the North, including the launch site of the Unha. “We can have a much greater deterrence,” he says, “but it takes time.”

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