North Korea could have U.S. within missile range, says South

SEOUL Sun Dec 23, 2012 7:56am EST

1 of 7. An undated image released by South Korea's Defence Ministry in Seoul on December 23, 2012, shows a piece of wreckage of North Korea's Unha-3 (Milky Way 3) rocket being pulled up by the South Korean navy.

Credit: Reuters/South Korea's Defence Ministry/Handout

Related Video

SEOUL (Reuters) - This month's rocket launch by reclusive North Korea shows it has likely developed the technology, long suspected in the West, to fire a warhead more than 10,000 km (6,200 miles), South Korean officials said on Sunday, putting the U.S. West Coast in range.

North Korea said the December 12 launch put a weather satellite in orbit but critics say it was aimed at nurturing the kind of technology needed to mount a nuclear warhead on a long-range missile.

North Korea is banned from testing missile or nuclear technology under U.N. sanctions imposed after its 2006 and 2009 nuclear weapons tests and the U.N. Security Council condemned the launch.

South Korea retrieved and analyzed parts of the first-stage rocket that dropped in the waters off its west coast

"As a result of analyzing the material of Unha-3 (North Korea's rocket), we judged North Korea had secured a range of more than 10,000 km in case the warhead is 500-600 kg," a South Korean Defense Ministry official told a news briefing.

North Korea's previous missile tests ended in failure.

North Korea, which denounces the United States as the mother of all warmongers on an almost daily basis, has spent decades and scarce resources to try to develop technology capable of striking targets as far away as the United States and it is also working to build a nuclear arsenal.

But experts believe the North is still years away from mastering the technology needed to miniaturize a nuclear bomb to mount on a missile.

South Korean defense officials also said there was no confirmation whether the North had the re-entry technology needed for a payload to survive the heat and vibration without disintegrating.

Despite international condemnation, the launch this month was seen as a major boost domestically to the credibility of the North's young leader, Kim Jong-un, who took over power from his father who died last year.

Apparently encouraged by the euphoria, the fledgling supreme leader called for the development and launching of "a variety of more working satellites" and "carrier rockets of bigger capacity" at a banquet in Pyongyang on Friday which he hosted for those who contributed to the lift-off, according to North Korean state media.

(Editing by Jack Kim and Nick Macfie)

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see
Comments (45)
bates148 wrote:
Nothing to worry about here. First, North Korea will never fire a nuclear weapon at the U.S. — it’s suicide. Second, even if it did, the U.S., with it’s $633 billion defense budget, has more than enough ICBMs defense systems.

Dec 23, 2012 12:24am EST  --  Report as abuse
agamemnus wrote:
bates148: we (the US) want the ability to go into North Korea and take them out if NK is seen as an imminent threat to the region and/or South Korea, or just for the lulz. If they have an effective nuclear deterrent that makes this option impossible and entrenches the regime.

Dec 23, 2012 1:23am EST  --  Report as abuse
assmuncher wrote:
We (the US) have the ability go go into NK and take them out.
Whether they have nuclear weapons or not does not change this fact.

Dec 23, 2012 3:10am EST  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.