October 28, 2016 09:19
North Korea may have been testing an intercontinental ballistic missile on Oct. 15 and 20, rather than a medium-range missile as U.S. and South Korean authorities have assumed, American pundits speculate.
The failed launches took place at an air base in Kusong in remote North Pyongan Province.
At the time, South Korean and U.S. military authorities said they "presume" the missiles, which exploded in mid-air, were of a medium-range type usually called "Musudan," which can fly an estimated 3,500 km to reach the U.S. base in Guam in the western Pacific.
But the pundits disagree. "We think it is important that people consider the possibility that this was a KN-08 [ICBM] test," the Washington Post quoted Jeffrey Lewis, at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey in California, as saying.
"Lewis and his colleagues found burn scars after each missile firing, showing where the hot exhaust scorched the pavement and grass," the daily said Wednesday. "These big burn scars are much bigger than what had been seen after Musudan tests, and the fact that they happened on the other side of the country added to suspicions about the kind of missile being tested."
"The possibility of a KN-08 cannot be ruled out," John Schilling, an aerospace engineer who frequently writes about the North’s missiles, told the daily.
The U.S. Strategic Command "twice misidentified three missiles that North Korea launched in September," Lewis said. "We still think people are being too quick to jump to the conclusion that this was a Musudan. Even if it's only 50:50, being shocked half of the time is still bad."
U.S. officials first presumed three missiles the North fired on Sept. 5 to be short-range Rodong missiles but later concluded they were mid-range Musudan missiles.
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