Official: N. Korea rocket launch a surprise

Dec. 27, 2012 at 11:23 PM
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WASHINGTON, Dec. 27 (UPI) -- North Korea may have used deception to surprise the United States and its Asian allies prior to its long-range missile launch, a U.S. official told CNN.

The official, described as having direct knowledge of an analysis done by the U.S. military and intelligence agencies of the Dec. 12 launch by the secretive Communist country, told CNN the United States and its allies were caught "off guard" even though U.S. and Japanese military vessels and missile defenses were in place to monitor it and to protect land, sea and space.

"We had our dukes up, operationally, but we were caught off guard," the official was quoted as saying.

"The clues point to a concerted effort to deceive us," the official added.

The analysis dealt with the launch itself and knowledge about it by U.S. intelligence.

The official said the analysis showed the North Koreans' ability to determine when U.S. intelligence gathering satellites would pass over their country.

"It's believed the North Koreans essentially manipulated the launch so U.S. intelligence satellites simply would not be overhead and able to see what was happening," the official told CNN.

He said in the most likely scenario, North Korea wasn't telling the truth in its announcement about technical problems in the missile days ahead of the launch and about moving some of the rocket parts away from the launch site and bringing in replacements. In reality, he said, the North Korean likely hurriedly reassembled the original rocket and launched it when the United States did not have total visibility of the launch site.

North Korea has said the rocket was used to launch a satellite in space and asserted its right to carry out such peaceful launches in future.

After the launch, South Korean defense ministry experts, using simulation and other tests with the debris and other items of the North Korean rocket retrieved from the sea, said North Korea may now have the capability to launch missiles as far away as mainland United States.

CNN, however, quoted experts as saying they do not believe North Korea has a nuclear warhead small enough to be put on such missiles.

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