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north korea - the pot begins to boil

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    N. Korean Rocket Can Reach U.S., CIA Says

    Wednesday February 12, 2003 6:20 PM


    WASHINGTON (AP) - North Korea has an untested ballistic missile capable of reaching the western United States, intelligence officials said Wednesday.

    The North Korean missile is a three-stage version of the Taepo Dong 2, said Vice Adm. Lowell Jacoby, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. It has not been flight-tested, Jacoby said, leaving some questions about the North Korea's capability to successfully launch the missile.

    CIA Director George J. Tenet, who joined Jacoby in briefing the Senate Armed Services Committee, also acknowledged the North Koreans have the capability to reach the western United States with a long-range missile.

    Previous U.S. intelligence reports have said such a missile probably could carry a nuclear weapon-sized payload across the Pacific Ocean.

    Meanwhile, the U.N. nuclear agency raised the stakes in the standoff with North Korea, reporting the reclusive communist government to the Security Council for violating its international obligations.

    The International Atomic Energy Agency's 35-nation board of governors made the decision - a last resort after months of intransigence by Pyongyang - in an emergency session at the agency's headquarters in Vienna.

    Russia and Cuba abstained from the vote, which sets the stage for possible sanctions against Pyongyang.

    White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said he was unfamiliar with the testimony but said: ``Technology and time means regimes like North Korea will increasingly have the ability to strike at the United States.''

    He said that is why President Bush supports building an anti-missile shield.

    ``We do have concerns ... about North Korea's missile development programs,'' Fleischer told reporters.

    The revelation was certain to raise questions about Bush's priorities - and whether North Korea or Iraq pose a greater threat to the United States. Baghdad does not possess weapons that can strike America, officials have said.

    ``They are both important priorities,'' Fleischer said. ``The question is, what are the means best used to deal with each priority.''

    He said diplomacy has failed to curb Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction program for more than a decade, thus Bush made military action a front-and-center option. ``That's not the case with North Korea,'' Fleischer said, saying Bush believes diplomatic pressure can contain North Korea.

    Tenet said North Korea probably has one or two nuclear weapons.

    An unclassified U.S. intelligence estimate, released by CIA officials in December 2001, said the three-stage Taepo Dong 2 missile was probably close to being ready for flight testing.

    But North Korea has held to a voluntary moratorium on flight tests of its long-range missiles, although officials in Pyongyang likely will conduct new tests.

    The 2001 U.S. government report said a three-stage Taepo Dong could deliver a several-hundred-pound payload from North Korea to targets about 9,300 miles distant - sufficient to strike all of North America.

    A two-stage Taepo Dong 2, which would be easier to use successfully, may be able to reach Alaska or Hawaii, it said.

    In 1998, the North Koreans attempted to put a satellite into orbit with the launch of a three-stage version of the earlier model of the Taepo Dong. It failed when the third stage did not ignite.



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