A Japanese newspaper says North Korea is preparing to launch a short or medium-range missile in addition to a long-range rocket it plans to fire in early April. U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates says while he finds North Korea's actions "troubling," the United States has no plans to stop them.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates says North Korea will probably test a long-range missile in early April in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions, but unless the missile test threatens U.S. territory, the United States is not prepared to do anything to prevent it.
"I think if we had an aberrant missile, one that was headed for Hawaii or something like that, we might consider it, but I do not think we have any plans to do anything like that at this point," said Robert Gates.
Pyongyang says it plans to launch a communications satellite between April 4 and April 8 as part of its space development program, but officials in Japan, South Korea and the United States believe this is a cover to test its ballistic missile capabilities.
A Tokyo newspaper reports Japanese government officials say North Korea also plans to fire another missile shortly after the launch. Japan, South Korea and the United States have threatened to press for fresh U.N. sanctions if North Korea follows through on its tests.
Gates says these actions speak to North Korea's imperviousness to diplomatic overtures, but acknowledges the six-nation talks on North Korea, including Russia, China, Japan, the United States and South Korea, have made little headway recently.
Appearing on the television program Fox News Sunday, Secretary Gates says he believes this launch is evidence of North Korea's larger ambitions.
"I do not know anyone at a senior level in the American government who does not believe this technology is intended as a mask for the development of an intercontinental ballistic missile," he said.
Gates says senior defense officials believe it is North Korea's "long-term intent" to attach a nuclear warhead on top of a missile, but is skeptical they have the ability to do so.