Find a Security Clearance Job!

Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Index

Section 2. Response of the Defense Agency to the Missile Launch by North Korea

North Korea has been developing ballistic missiles, and on 31 August 1998, without any advance warning, it launched a ballistic missile-apparently based on the Taepodong I missile-from a missile launch pad in eastern North Korea near Taepodong. It is surmised that part of the missile fell into the Sea of Japan while part of it flew over Japan and fell into the Pacific Ocean off the Sanriku coast of Japan. From these facts, it is clear that North Korea has acquired the technology to produce missiles capable of reaching every part of Japan. As a matter that directly affects the security of Japan, this situation is most grave.

The Defense Agency continuously gathers information in waters around Japan using its ships and aircraft. In this case, based on an overall judgment using various information sources, the Defense Agency strengthened its preparedness and gathered information concerning the missile launch independently. It then announced the information that had been gathered and performed detailed analyses.

The following section describes the results of these analyses and the Defense Agency's response.

1. Outline

(1) Details before and after the Missile Launch

Regarding the missile launch by North Korea, the Defense Agency, based on an overall judgment using various information sources, strengthened its preparedness for gathering information by dispatching its ships and aircraft starting in mid-August 1998. In the period before and after the launch, MSDF dispatched P-3Cs and other aircraft, as well as vessels like the destroyer Myoko, to the Sea of Japan to collect information. And ASDF also dispatched E-2Cs and other aircraft to collect information.

The Defense Agency announced on 31 August 1998 that it had received early warning information from the United States that a ballistic missile had been launched from the east coast of North Korea shortly after noon, Japan time, and that the estimated impact area was in the Sea of Japan in waters south of Vladivostok. Later, based on an analysis of information gathered from various sources, it was surmised that one object had fallen into the Sea of Japan and two objects had fallen into waters off the Sanriku coast. Therefore, it was determined that the launched object was a two-stage ballistic missile, and that its first-stage propulsion device had fallen into the Sea of Japan while its second-stage propulsion device and warhead had fallen into waters off the Sanriku coast. This was announced on I September. (On the evening of 31 August, an announcement was made regarding the possibility that part of the ballistic missile had fallen into the seas off the Sanriku coast.)

Over 1 and 2 September, the Defense Agency dispatched its ships and aircraft to the waters where objects were thought to have possibly fallen and conducted searches, but no fallen debris was found.

On 4 September, North Korea's Korean Central News Agency reported that the launch had placed artificial satellite into an elliptical orbit ranging from 219km to 6,978km above the Earth. The Defe

Agency considered this story based on the analytical results available at that moment. Based on the that no data indicating that such an object as the one claimed by North Korea had attained an orbit around the Earth, the Defense Agency concluded that the artificial satellite in the North Korean report did not exist and that the possibilities that an artificial satellite had actually been put into orbit were small.

In addition, the Defense Agency, feeling that ongoing analysis of detailed data regarding this mis launch would be necessary, obtained the cooperation of the United States in conducting minutely detailed analyses, and continued various analysis projects. For example, in mid-September it dispatched experts from its (Defense) Intelligence Headquarters and other such organs to the United States in order to exchange views.

(2) Flight of the Missile

a. The facts obtained based on analysis and study of (he information gathered to date concerning t

launched object are as follows:

    1. On 31 August 1998, shortly after noon Japan time, a flying object was launched from a missile-launching facility in eastern North Korea near Taepodong.
    2. It is surmised that one to two minutes after launch, the flying object separated from another object (Object A), which fell into the Sea of Japan. This Object A is thought to be the propulsion device for the first stage of the missile.
    3. The flying object which separated from Object A continued to gain speed. Some time after separating from Object A, it separated from a second object (Object B). This Object B is presumed to have flown over and past Japanese airspace before it fell into the Pacific Ocean off the Sanribi coast. In addition, judging from the missile's flight, it was determined that Object B was the portion covering the outer tip of the flying object, but details are unclear.
    4. The remaining portion (Object C) continued for several minutes on a level trajectory before re-entering the atmosphere. Later, it is assumed to have fallen into Pacific Ocean waters beyond the Sanriku coast.
    5. In addition, it was determined from the results of detailed analysis that a small object (Object D) had broken off from Object C immediately before Object C lost its propulsion. This Object D flew only briefly and did not reach- the speed necessary for attaining a satellite orbit. Furthermore, judging from the flight conditions of this Object D, it is thought to have been using solid fuel.

b. Based on the conditions of its flight and other factors, it was determined that the flying object which was launched was a two-stage missile based on the missile classified by the United States as the Taepodong I.

(3) Analysis of Launched Flying Object

The results of a study regarding the announcement by North Korea claiming that the launch was that of a satellite are as follows:

  1. Looking at the flight conditions of the launched object, a comparison with the launch of an ordinary ballistic missile aimed at a specific point reveals the following characteristics:
  1. The highest altitude of the flight track of the flying object was lower than that of an ordinary ballistic missile and the flight track was level.
  2. There was a small Object D, which broke off at the final stage and flew briefly.

b. On the other hand, after detailed analysis revealed the existence of Object D, further analysis on Object D yielded the following results:

  1. Detailed analysis revealed that in order for Object D to have attained an orbit around the Earth as claimed by the North Korean report, extremely advanced fuel, structural and other technologies would have been required, and even with these types of technology, the size of the payload which could be carried would have to have been extremely small.
  2. Object D did not reach the speed necessary for attaining a satellite orbit, and its flight conditions differed greatly from those which occur in the final stage of ordinary satellite launches. Judging from this observation, the probability that Object D was either crushed deformed is quite high. Moreover, what North Korea claims to have been the successful launch of a satellite into an elliptical orbit seems even less likely in this light.
  3. The transmission of signals which enable verification and tracking of the object (normal] performed in satellite launches) could not be confirmed from the time of launch. (Th broadcast of 27MHz signals claimed by North Korea could not be confirmed.) From the above findings, it was determined that the probability that Object D had carried a artificial satellite equipped with communications or Earth observation functions, or some meaningful function enabling its verification and tracking, was low. In addition, results of detailed analysis also revealed no evidence that the launch had put an object into orbit around the Earth.

c. Theoretically speaking, it cannot be absolutely ruled out that the precise flight conditions in this launch, as described above, could put an object into orbit.

However, even if this were possible, as previously described, it is very difficult to imagine that the object could possess any meaningful satellite functions. Thus, the probability that the actual meaning of this launch was in fact the launch of a ballistic missile is high.

(4) Analysis of the Purpose of the Launch

From the conditions of the launch described above, although the theoretical possibility that an extremely small object was put into orbit around the Earth could not be completely dismissed, an overall look at the launch in question resulted in the determination that there was a high probability that this was a launch of: ballistic missile (one based on the Taepodong 1) for the purpose of verifying various technical issue toward increasing launch range, for the following reasons:

  1. Both a normal ballistic missile launch test and the launch of an artificial satellite share the need to run tests of various technologies, including those for the separation of multi-stage propulsion devices posture control and propulsion control. It is surmised that North Korea could have used this launch to verify these necessary technologies for the purpose of developing a long-range missile.
  2. The launch of an artificial satellite requires a long-term program, but no concrete facts have been confirmed which would clearly indicate the presence of a long-term North Korean program regarding artificial satellites, separate from their missile program (such as information that rockets for observation or research were launched which were typically used in the earlier stages of development before satellite launches).
  3. On the other hand. North Korea has a past record of missile launches which are considered to be aimed at ballistic missile development, and is also considered to have an official program for future development which includes the transfer of missiles to other countries

(5) Impact on Japan's Security

a. Current State of North Korea's Missile Development

  1. It is surmised that through this launch. North Korea was able to verify various technologies, including those for the Taepodong I's separation of multi-stage propulsion devices, posture control and propulsion control. Therefore, it is determined that the development of this missile is progressing rapidly.
  2. Moreover, the missile that was launched had a range of over 1,500km.
  3. (iii) Furthermore, it is surmised that there is a high probability that development of the Nodong missile thought to have been employed for the first stage has been completed.

In addition, a comprehensive look at various information reveals that the missile's effective

range is about l,300km. Such a range makes it capable of reaching virtually every part of Japan.

b. Impact on Security

  1. Regardless of what type of object was loaded on the head of the missile launched by Noith Korea, two facts are clear: that its delivery method was the firing of a long-range missile and that North Korea has the technology to manufacture missiles capable of reaching every part of Japan. When combined with the fact that an act resulting in an object overflying Japan and dropping into its nearby waters was committed without prior notice, this missile launch becomes a grave issue for the security of Japan and of the region. It is necessary for Japan to deal with this issue in cooperation with the United States, the Republic of Korea and other nations concerned.
  2. The influx of materials and technologies into the country from outside is seen to be behind the rapid progress of missile development by North Korea. It is very important that the appropriate response to technology proliferation be made under the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR).
  3. At the same time. North Korea has been recognized until now as an exporter of missiles to Middle Eastern countries, and the missile that was launched, along with its related technologies, is expected to be transferred and otherwise to proliferate.
  4. When it is considered that missiles are generally an effective means of delivery for nuclear devices and other weapons of mass destruction and that North Korean missile technology has developed amid the global transfer and proliferation of missile technology, it becomes clear that the issue of North Korean missile development, together with the issue of the transfer and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, is a pressing one that should be tackled by Japan and the rest of the international community.
  1. Lessons and Issues

Various discussion and debate is taking place in the Diet and other fora regarding the lessons and issues concerning the Government's response to the missile launch by North Korea. The Defense Agency is working on the following measures, including those that should be taken by the Government as a whole.

(1) Improvement of Information Gathering Capabilities

The Defense Agency has comprehensively analyzed various types of information regarding the missile launch by North Korea, including information obtained through its own unique information-gathering posture.

It also has learned the following issues of its gathering, analysis and communication of information

regarding the ballistic missile:

  1. Considering that information gathered and processed immediately after the launch needed to be analyzed in an extremely short time and promptly communicated, the Defense Agency's accuracy was somewhat limited.
  2. Because the Defense Agency did not necessarily possess sufficient capabilities to analyze all the information regarding the missile, even after the fact, a large amount of time was needed to run the detailed analyses required to correctly ascertain the facts.

From these facts, the Defense Agency believes that in order to respond accurately to future missile launches and other such events, it should formulate measures to accomplish the following purposes in the areas of information-gathering, analysis and communication. These measures are already being studied in the Committee for Responding to Serious Situations and other fora.

  1. It must ensure sufficient information-gathering and analysis postures at the stage when first indications are detected.
  2. It must further increase the closeness and promptitude of information exchange with the United States.
  3. It must improve the capabilities of the Defense Agency's information-gathering sensors of various kinds.
  4. It must accelerate the centralization of collected information.
  5. It must strengthen its capabilities for detailed analysis of collected information.
  6. It must develop more timely and appropriate information liaison and announcement mechanisms.

In addition, although in the case of the North Korean missile launch, early warning information was basically conveyed to the Prime Minister's Office and the Cabinet National Security Affairs and Crisis Management Office in accordance with procedure, the Defense Agency is working to upgrade the communication system and improve the risk management mechanism in accordance with the lessons learned from this matter.

(2) Introduction of Information Gathering Satellites

As a result of the missile launch by North Korea, the Government of Japan conducted a study on methods of using imagery information obtained by satellites. The Defense Agency also participated in this study. The result of this study was the conclusion that it was necessary to introduce Information Gathering Satellites in order to gather the information necessary to ensure the security of Japan. In December 1998, a Cabinet Decision was reached to introduce Information Gathering Satellites by FY2002 mainly to gather information needed for national security, such as diplomacy and defense, and crisis management including responses to large-scale disasters.

Since precious data contributing to security can be obtained with Information Gathering SateUites, the Defense Agency believes that its introduction is extremely significant. Because the Defense Agency possesses various knowledge and experience regarding analysis, systems operation and the cultivation of analysis through imagery intelligence operation that has been conducted since FY1984, using imagery data from commercial Earth observation satellites, it has been actively cooperating with the Government's efforts.

 



NEWSLETTER
Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list