Russia’s Itar-Tass news agency reported yesterday that North Korea intends to conduct a second ballistic missile test sometime tomorrow. Itar-Tass attributed news of the alleged upcoming test to unnamed diplomatic sources in Moscow, but it provided no details. The Russian news agency is one of the few in the world to maintain a correspondent in Pyongyang. Russian Foreign Ministry sources could not confirm the news agency report. (Itar-Tass, Reuter, Kyodo, September 7)
A second test by North Korea would follow the country’s first firing of a ballistic missile on August 31. A portion of that first missile apparently landed in Russian waters in the Sea of Japan. A second portion is reported to have traveled over Japanese territory and landed in the Pacific Ocean. Japan vigorously protested against the first test. Authorities in Tokyo said on September 3 that they had placed the nation’s defense forces on heightened alert after receiving reports that Pyongyang might be considering a second test. (Washington Post, September 4) On September 5 Japan’s Maritime Safety Agency reported that more than a dozen North Korean fishing vessels had entered Russian-claimed waters near the disputed south Kuril Islands. The movement of the North Korean vessels, which reportedly were not doing any fishing, added to speculation that North Korea might be preparing for another missile test. (Kyodo, September 5)
Meanwhile, a Russian agency responsible for monitoring objects in space said on September 4 that the August 31 North Korean test missile had actually launched Pyongyang’s first satellite into space. The Russian agency said that the satellite was in orbit approximately 200 kilometers above the earth. (Itar-Tass, September 4) In Moscow, the deputy director of the Russian Space Agency said that the North Korean launch suggested mastery of a “very high level of rocket technology.” Russian sources also said that air defense forces in the country’s Far East had been put on alert out of concern that debris from any new launch by North Korea might also fall into Russian waters. (Russian agencies, September 4; Washington Post, September 5)
ANOTHER CHANGE FOR THE GROUND FORCES.