March 29th, 2009
10:59 AM ET
14 years ago

Gates: No doubt of North Korea's hostile missile launch intentions

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Defense Secretary Gates said Sunday that the Obama administration is prepared to shoot down a North Korean missile if the country develops the capability to reach Hawaii or the Western U.S."]
WASHINGTON (CNN) - There is little doubt that a planned North Korean rocket launch next month is designed to bolster that country's military capability, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Sunday.

He also indicated that the U.S. military could be prepared to shoot down a North Korean missile if the rogue regime develops the capability to reach Hawaii or the western continental United States in a future launch.

The North Korean government says it will launch a commercial satellite atop a rocket sometime between April 4 and April 8.

"I don't know anyone at a senior level in the American government who does not believe this technology is intended as a mask for the development of an intercontinental ballistic missile," Gates said during an appearance on "Fox News Sunday."

Gates noted that while the United States believes it is North Korea's "long-term intent" to add a nuclear warhead to any such missile, he "personally would be skeptical that they have the ability right now to do that."

Japan recently mobilized its missile defense system - an unprecedented step - in response to the planned North Korean launch, Japanese officials said.

The move, noteworthy for a country with a pacifist constitution, is aimed
at shooting down any debris from the launch that might fall into Japanese territory.

In a concurrent response, U.S. Navy ships capable of shooting down ballistic missiles are being moved to the Sea of Japan, a Navy spokesman said Thursday.

Gates said that the U.S. military could shoot down "an aberrant missile, one that was headed for Hawaii ... or something like that, we might consider it, but I don't think we have any plans to (do) anything like that at this point."

He does not believe North Korea currently has the technology to reach Alaska or Pacific coast.

Gates said that impending missile launch is a clear demonstration of the failure of the recent six-party talks to disarm the North Korean regime.

"It's very troubling. The reality is that the six-party talks really have not made any headway any time recently," he said.

"If (the missile launch) is Kim Jong-Il's welcoming present to a new president ... it says a lot about the imperviousness of this regime in North Korea to any kind of diplomatic overtures."

Gates said that he believes economic sanctions are the best tool to getting countries like North Korea and Iran to the negotiating table. Both countries are believed by the United States and other Western nations to be trying to acquire nuclear capability.

Filed under: Robert Gates
soundoff (10 Responses)
  1. independent wonderer

    North Korea is never going to behave..the United Nations probably needs to just blow them off the map and be done with them...

    March 29, 2009 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  2. Bill ~ Down on the Bayou


    What if the do have the capability.... Who in the obama administration is willing to stand up and say we should have seen it coming.
    certinally not the obama, he is one of them, he is on their side.

    March 29, 2009 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  3. Flo

    I have no doubt in my mind N. Korea thinks they can bully the administration and wil try testing Obama to see how far they can go. I predict the Obama administration will respond forcefully despite N. Korea calling foul they were not testing warheads.

    March 29, 2009 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  4. lynn in NM

    We just have to talk with them. They won't do anything after that. Right, Hillary? Come on, President Obama. Get with her plan.

    March 29, 2009 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  5. Scott AZ

    If you're not going to go in and invade N. Korea for conducting a missle lauch than just shut up and stop the saber rattling.

    As far as economic sanctions goes, Clinton and Albright tried it and it didn't work, the North still developed a nuke.

    March 29, 2009 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  6. barking dogs

    North Korea is nothing more than Chinas pitbull.This is all smoke and mirrors.

    March 29, 2009 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  7. Fitz in Texas

    WOW, in the pic Obama actually has his hand over his heart and appears he's showing respect to our flag and country. Didn't do this before he decided he wanted to run for the President's position. What people will do when they want the number one job so they can make "change" such as running us down the road to socialism and destroying our future and the future of our children and their children.

    Perhaps Biden was correct on one thing when he said this President will be tested within the next six months.

    March 29, 2009 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  8. John

    I find it amazing. One of the greatest politco-military challenges of our time, and most posters want to simply continue sharpening knives of their petty grievances. Perahps if you looked at the map of the world from the perspective of economic productivity, you could readily begin to see how easily the DPRK can purtabate even the most myopic universes many posters seem to live in. Perhaps you could help us all by spending all of that venemous energy trying to offer ideas on how to cause a regime to change from its danger course. In your thoughtful analysis please adddress the facts that the leadership of the DPRK has bunkers thousands of feet below the earth, has no engagement with most states, doesn't care if the people starve( as evidenced by current behavior), and has the means to land over 1 million explosive shells in Seoul within minutes. I wait with bated breath for your thoughtful analysis.

    March 29, 2009 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  9. ken

    again the GW knew that NK was doing this and did nothing to stop it. Obama is at least trying to stop it, who knows the dam thing blow up on the pad

    March 29, 2009 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  10. Thanh

    N.Korea is a difficult situation. We can't simply go in there like we did with Iraq. For one, it borders China, a new superpower with ambitions of global domination. Second, N.Korea would probably go with a scorched earth policy and put all of its citizens in harms way.

    March 29, 2009 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |