North Korea Seen Practicing Evasion Tactics with March Missile Test

A U.S. Army Patriot interceptor battery is displayed in 2008 at the U.S. airbase in Osan. North Korea's March test-firing of a pair of Rodong ballistic missiles appears to have been aimed at testing a strategy for evading U.S. and South Korean antimissile systems, military sources say.
A U.S. Army Patriot interceptor battery is displayed in 2008 at the U.S. airbase in Osan. North Korea's March test-firing of a pair of Rodong ballistic missiles appears to have been aimed at testing a strategy for evading U.S. and South Korean antimissile systems, military sources say. (Kim Jae-hwan/AFP/Getty Images)

North Korea was likely assessing its ability to evade missile defenses when it test-fired two ballistic missiles in March, South Korean sources say.

What was unusual about Pyongyang's test-launch of a pair of Rodong missiles is that even though the weapons have a range of between approximately 620 miles and 930 miles, the weapons flew for only roughly 400 miles before splashing down in the ocean, the Yonhap News Agency reported.

"North Korea fired the Rodong missiles at a higher than usual launch angle in order to shorten their maximum range," an unidentified high-ranking South Korean military source said.

The North's Rodong arsenal is seen to be more of a threat to Japan's territory. However, firing the missiles at a higher angle could cause them to strike the South.

"By carrying out such a test, North Korea appears to have come up with a way not to be caught by either the South Korean or American missile interception system when launching an attack against South Korea with its mid-range missiles," the source said.

South Korea has been developing a national antimissile framework that is aimed at defeating North Korea's lower-altitude short-range Scud missiles. Seoul does not presently have the ability to counter Rodong weapons, the South Korean defense ministry said. The Patriot Advanced Capability 3 interceptors that the South is planning to acquire would have a difficult time countering a Rodong if it were traveling at a high altitude similar to those missiles launched in March, the ministry acknowledged.

"That's why we have been developing our own long-range surface-to-air missiles with our indigenous technology," a ministry spokesman said.

The United States has informally proposed deploying a Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense battery in South Korea. The system is seen as better suited to defeating mid-range threats like the Rodong.

Seoul has emphasized it has no plans to purchase a THAAD system. However, South Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin on Wednesday said the government "does not care if the U.S. Forces Korea adopts and deploys the system here," Yonhap separately reported.

June 19, 2014
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North Korea was likely assessing its ability to evade missile defenses when it test-fired two ballistic missiles in March, South Korean sources say.

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