The United States said a satellite put into orbit by North Korea at the weekend does not appear to be transmitting, but the rocket that took it there delivered twice the payload of Pyongyang’s previous launch.
“If you look at the previous launch and the payload it put into orbit … just the increase in weight is I think an important factor,” Lt. Gen. David Mann, the head of the US Army’s Missile Defense Command, told a seminar on Capitol Hill organized by the Hudson Institute think tank on Wednesday.
“Whenever you are able to put something into orbit, that’s significant,” Reuters quoted Mann as saying.
“I don’t think it’s transmitting as we speak, but it does reflect a capability that North Korea is trying to leverage in terms of its missile technologies,” he said.
“That kind of capability and then also the collateral usages for that technology are obviously very, very concerning to nations around the world in terms of ICBM [Intercontinental Ballistic Missile] capabilities.”
Mann said the payload carried was almost twice as large as that carried in North Korea’s previous satellite launch in 2012.
He did not give a figure for the weight of the latest satellite, but South Korean officials have put it at 200 kg [440 lb], the news agency said.
Sunday’s launch, which followed Pyongyang’s fourth nuclear bomb test on Jan. 6, was condemned by the US and countries around the world, which believe it was cover for development of ballistic missile technology.
The US and South Korea immediately said they would begin formal talks about deploying the sophisticated US Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, or THAAD, to the Korean peninsula “at the earliest possible date”.
China has opposed the plan to deploy a missile shield in South Korea, which could reduce the effectiveness of its own strategic deterrent.
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