NORTHCOM Detected Missile Launches; World Evaluates Next Step
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, July 5, 2006 U.S. Northern Command detected "each and every" North Korean missile launch and had interceptors operational and ready to respond if needed, a senior defense official told Pentagon reporters today.
NORTHCOM and North American Aerospace Defense Command officials quickly recognized that the seven ballistic missiles fired yesterday and early today did not pose a threat to the United States or its territories, Bryan Whitman, deputy assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, said today.
North Korea fired a long-range Taepodong-2 missile and six short- and medium-range Scud and Nodong missiles. All landed in the Sea of Japan without incident, with the Taepondong-2 failing on its own shortly after launch, according to NORTHCOM statements released yesterday and today.
Ground-based Midcourse Defense System interceptors at Fort Greeley, Alaska, and Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., were operational during the launches, but were not deployed, the statements confirmed.
The United States has "well-established procedures for dealing with missile launches that potentially pose a threat to the United States or its territories," Whitman said today. "Those procedures were followed for these activities last night and this morning."
U.S. and world leaders joined today to condemn North Korea's missile tests and determine the best step forward.
"The United States strongly condemns these missile launches and North Korea's unwillingness to heed calls for restraint from the international community," White House spokesman Tony Snow said last night.
"In doing this, the North Koreans have once again isolated themselves," Snow said. "They have defied their neighbors who urged them not to have a launch. The South Koreans, the Japanese and the Chinese all have asked them not to do it."
Meanwhile, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice today called the launches a "provocation" and urged North Korea to return to the stalled Six-Party Talks.
The United Nations Security Council convened an emergency session today to discuss the situation.
Snow said last night that the United States will take necessary measures to protect itself and its allies. The GMD interceptor system, while not used for any of the launches, is available when needed to defend the United States, its allies, infrastructure and population centers, according to the NORTHCOM statements.
"Our missile defense crews are trained, and our systems are ready to respond as necessary," the statements said. "U.S. Northern Command has the preliminary responsibility to direct missile defense operations to protect the homeland, allies, friends and other national interests from potentially hostile acts."