WASHINGTON, March 7 (UPI) -- North Korea has announced an "exclusion zone" in the Sea of Japan from March 8 to 11, suggesting it may be preparing another test of its homegrown anti-ship cruise missile, a Pentagon spokesman said Friday.
North Korea established an almost identical sea exclusion zone when it tested the missile on Feb. 24, Defense Department spokesman Lt. Cdr. Jeff Davis said.
Sea exclusion zones are established in international waters by countries when they want to keep ships and other vessels out of an area for military purposes. The United States establishes similar protected areas whenever it tests its missile defense system, Davis said.
North Korea's cruise missile launch in February did not violate its voluntary moratorium on long-range ballistic missile tests because it is a guided cruise missile of shorter range.
U.S. officials said they have no indication this latest test will violate that moratorium but acknowledge their visibility into North Korean military matters is limited. North Korea could launch a 2,000-kilometer range Taopodong or 1,000 kilometer-range NoDong with little or no notice, according to U.S. officials.
The 1998 launch over Japan of what turned out to be a three-stage Taopodong missile caught the United States more or less by surprise. U.S. ships and surveillance aircraft had been in place for weeks in anticipation of the missile test.
However, North Korea feigned that the test had been aborted. When U.S. ships and assets began to move away, Pyongyang quickly launched the missile, catching the United States and Japan by surprise. After the test and under pressure from Japan, North Korea agreed not to test any more long-range ballistic missiles.