North Korea fired a barrage of short-range missiles off its east coast in a possible prelude to the launch of a long-range rocket to Hawaii over the U.S. Independence Day holiday.
Firing order a ballistic missile in July Fourth celebration will be a challenge to Washington, which has been mobilizing international support for the enforcement of UN sanctions imposed against Pyongyang for a nuclear test on May 25. North Korea is excluded from testing ballistic missiles under UN resolutions.
Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura said Thursday that a long-range rocket launch this weekend possible. "We can not exclude the possibility," he said, referring Pyongyang earlier behavior.
In 2006, North Korea launched its most advanced Taepodong 2 missile, while the U.S. celebrated Independence Day, but the rocket fizzled shortly after take-off and fell into the sea.
Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said the U.S. remains concerned about North Korea's missile and nuclear programs, but called on North Korea's launch Thursday short-range missiles "not unexpected.
More U.S. Defense Department officials say there are signs that North Korea is ready to launch a long-range ballistic missiles, and it seems to be no immediate threat to the United States.
On April 5 launch of a Taepodong-2 required 12 days' preparation for the launch pad, which was quite observable U.S. satellites. Short-and medium-range rockets, missiles, but can be implemented at short notice.
Missile defense in Hawaii was strengthened after a mid-June report in a Japanese newspaper that the North could fire a long-range missiles against the island in early July.
Head of U.S. Northern Command Gen. Victor E. "Gene" Renuart said in an interview with the Washington Times this week that the U.S. missile defense is ready to reject all incoming North Korean missiles. "I think we should assume it to be the Fourth of July," he said, according to the newspaper.
North Korea raised concerns in late April when it explicitly threatened to test-fire an intercontinental ballistic missiles and warned of a nuclear test. Regime is followed by Atomic blast in May leaving ICBM test that their next likely step.
"I fully expect we'll see another long-range rocket launch ... Because they say they will do it," USS Ralph, president of Pacific Forum CSIS think tank, told the Associated Press from Beijing, where he was present a Non-Proliferation Conference.
North's April launch, which is estimated to have sent a rocket around 2000 miles, which represents a significant step forward in its long-range missile technology, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists said in a recent report.
South Korea considers Taepodong 2 can travel at least 4,100 miles to Alaska and Guam in striking distance. North is also believed to be developing an advanced version of the Taepodong 2, which could now not only Hawaii but also the west coast of the USA with a potential range of approximately 5000 miles.
Pyongyang had previously marked a large area of water from its east coast, not flying through the zone 10 Jul regard military exercises. Thursday launching four short-range missiles were thought to be the north-east of the first military action in the designated zone.
Yonhap news agency as an Unnamed military officials, reported that all four of the missiles flew about 60 miles (100 km) and identified them as KN-01 missiles with a range of up to 100 miles (160 km).
Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso condemned the launches as "provocative." South Korean Foreign Minister Yu Myung-Hwan said firing is not a good sign because they are demonstrating their military power. "
South Korean analysts were skeptical of the possibility of a large number of start anytime soon.
Koh Yu-Hwan, a professor at Seoul's Dongguk University, said he expects the North will take more time to consider the international reaction to its recent pledge to expand its nuclear program.
Tensions over North Korea's actions come as its leader Kim Jong Il has been the basis to provide power to one of his sons, and two U.S. journalists were detained for illegal border crossings and other hostile acts.
Analysts predict North Sea will continue its provocative actions in an attempt to command the attention that can lead to economic benefits.
"I think that North Korea will continue to do is Ratchet up of tension," says Brad Glosserman, an analyst at the CSIS think tank. It needs to get attention concessions from other countries ... and to show their strength to domestic constituencies. "
President Barack Obama has promised the U.S. would not reward North Korea's bad behavior, and his government has pushed China - a key North Korean ally - to enforce new UN sanctions against Pyongyang.
In an interview with The Associated Press Thursday Obama said he tried to "keep the door open" for North Korea to return to international nuclear disarmament talks, but the country must abandon its nuclear weapons programs before it can join the world community.
He also said there may be more penalties in the shop for May for the North's nuclear test, says the implementation of UN sanctions are "going very well."