U.S. Considers Shooting Down N. Korea Missile genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak

The Associated Press reports that the United States is considering the possibility of shooting down the missile to be launched in tests being conducted by North Korea.

The Bush administration is weighing responses to a possible North Korean missile test that include attempting to shoot it down in flight over the Pacific, defense officials told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

Because North Korea is secretive about its missile operations, U.S. officials say they must consider the possibility that an anticipated test would turn out to be something else, such as a space launch or even an attack. Thus, the Pentagon is considering the possibility of attempting an interception, two defense officials said, even though it would be unprecedented and is not considered the likeliest scenario.

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said he could not say whether the unproven multibillion-dollar U.S. anti-missile defense system might be used in the event of a North Korean missile launch.

Robert Einhorn, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said a U.S. shootdown of a North Korean missile on a test flight or a space launch would draw "very strong international reaction" against the United States. He saw only a small chance that the U.S. would attempt a shootdown.

The last time the Pentagon registered a successful test in intercepting a mock warhead in flight was in October 2002. Since then, there have been three unsuccessful attempted intercepts, most recently in February 2005.

The Washington Times reported Tuesday that the Pentagon has placed its missile defense system in an active status for potential use.

The situation adds weight to concerns that the invasion of Iraq may have been an unnecessary distraction that has now placed some potential limitations on the latitude the international community might be inclined to support with regard to aggressive U.S. efforts to impact activities by rogue nations like North Korea and Iran. Both countries have become increasingly adversarial towards the U.S. since being designated by the Bush administration as part of an axis of evil and in light of the strategy of preemptive invasion carried out in Iraq.

Daniel DiRito | June 20, 2006 | 9:10 PM
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