It may not a good day to be a North Korean missile designer. U.S. Northern Command announced today that North Korea last night launched a long-range Taepodong-2 missile. The missile's first stage fell into the Sea of Japan, and the remaining stages -- along with a satellite payload -- landed in the Pacific Ocean.
"No object entered orbit and no debris fell on Japan," the command said in a press release.
Not so, says North Korea. The Associated Press quotes Korean Central News Agency as saying the missile successfully lofted its payload into orbit. "The satellite is transmitting the melodies of the immortal revolutionary paeans 'Song of Gen. Kim Il Sung' and 'Song of Gen. Kim Jong Il' as well as measurement data back to Earth," KCNA said, referring to North Korea's founder and his successor.
Whether or not the experimental communications satellite Kwangmyongsong-2 is in orbit -- or in the ocean -- this launch probably counts as more successful than a 2006 Taepodong-2 test. That missile disintegrated less than a minute after leaving the launch pad.
Over the next week, no doubt, we'll see a lot of arguing about what North Korea's launch test means. For proponents of missile defense, it proves that North Korea is another step further to developing an ICBM capability. And for missile defense critics, it shows that North Korea is still a long way from building a missile that could pose a credible threat to the United States.
Click to view image: 'North Korea Poster 1'
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