South Korean tests raise fears over range of North’s missiles

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THIS MONTH’S rocket launch by North Korea shows it has probably developed the technology, long suspected in the West, to fire a warhead more than 10,000km, putting the West Coast of American in its range, South Korean officials said yesterday.

North Korea said the launch earlier this month 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 UN sanctions imposed after its 2006 and 2009 nuclear weapons tests.

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

“As a result of analysing the material of Unha-3 [North Korea’s rocket], we judged North Korea had secured a range of more than 10,000km in case (sic) the warhead is 500-600kg,” a South Korean defence ministry official said.

North Korea, which denounces the US 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 US 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 miniaturise a nuclear bomb to mount on a missile.

South Korean defence 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.