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    Behind door A…

    The Yomiuri says that Japan and the United States are looking into the likeliest scenarios for the DPRK’s next rocket launch. Very comforting:

    At the Tongchang-ri facility, either a Taepodong-2 missile or an upgraded Taepodong-2 was believed to have been brought from a missile manufacturing facility near Pyongyang on May 30, according to the sources.

    Based on the assumption that this latest missile is a two- or three-stage type and has capability equal or superior to the long-range ballistic missile North Korea launched in April, the Defense Ministry predicted the possibility of a launch toward Hawaii, with a launch toward Okinawa Prefecture and Guam also seen a possibility.

    If it took the Okinawan path, when the first-stage booster detaches it could fall in the vicinity of a Chinese coastal area and might anger China.

    In the case of the Guam path, the missile must overfly South Korea and Japan’s Chugoku and Shikoku regions, which means the booster would be dumped onto a land area. Therefore, the ministry sees both possibilities as quite low, according to the sources.

    In case of the Hawaii route, the booster could be dumped into the Sea of Japan. If such a long-range test launch was successful, North Korea would be able to pose a great military threat to the United States, which until now has not regarded North Korean missiles as a threat to North America or Hawaii. Therefore, the ministry concluded the Hawaii route is most probable of the three scenarios, the sources said.

    However, while the distance from North Korea to the main islands of Hawaii is about 7,000 kilometers, an upgraded Taepodong-2 only has a range of 4,000 to 6,500 kilometers.

    The ministry believes even if the missile took the most direct route over Aomori Prefecture, it would not reach the main Hawaiian Islands, the sources said.

    Though U.S. intelligence satellite images showed a missile launch pad had already been set up at the Tongchang-ri base, it takes more than 10 days to assemble and fuel a missile before launch, according to the sources.

    The ministry said it believes North Korea is likely to launch a missile sometime between July 4 and 8, because the 1996 launch of the Taepodong-2 missile took place on the July 4 U.S. Independence Day (July 5 Japan time) and July 8 falls on the anniversary of the 1994 death of former North Korean leader Kim Il Sung.

    It came to light Wednesday that North Korea may have transported a missile to a launch site in Musudan-ri.

    So now we watch and wait and show “grave concern,” if that’s the phrase of the month on this particular issue.

    BTW, in more benign circumstances, Japan is apparently readying to provide nuclear power expertise to a roster of developing countries. I can’t for the life of me locate the article in which I read that–it was just within a week ago–but it sounds like good news given the push to move away from fossil fuels. Some may wonder whether Japan, given its history of nail-biting incidents at nuclear facilities, is really in a good position to be doing so; but the problems at, say, Mihama were not due to lack of knowledge of what safety regulations were needed. They were due to a failure to follow procedures that were supposed to be in place. Japan has plenty of good technical expertise to transmit.

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