North Korea has between three and five missiles on launch pads ready for firing, but none of them are the long-range intercontinental type, FOX News has confirmed.
All of the missiles are believed to be short- to medium-range and are of no threat to the United States, but could reach U.S. allies like Japan.
On Wednesday, North Korea test-fired seven missiles, triggering international condemnation. The missiles apparently fell into the sea without causing damage or injuries.
Map from Daniel W. Drezner
And from Space Daily :
The US missile defense system was put to its first real test Tuesday and Wednesday with North Korea's launch of a long-range missile and a half dozen shorter range missiles.
US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said he was on and off the phone with top US commanders almost continuously for days before the missile tests.
"I received the notification of the launch of these missiles probably within of a minute of when they occurred," he told reporters before a meeting with Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili.
Pentagon officials were circumspect, though, about how the multi-billion dollar missile defense system performed.
"What I will tell you is that each and every launch was detected and monitored, and that interceptors were operational during the missile launches that took place," said Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman.
"The commander of NORAD (the North American Air Defense Command) was able to determine rather quickly that the missiles didn't pose a threat to the United States or its territories," he said.
The North Korean Taepodong-2 was a dud, failing within 40 seconds of lifting off from a launch pad in eastern Korea, so no US interceptor missiles were fired, according to defense officials.
The other six medium- and short-range missiles landed in the Sea of Japan.
"The Taepodong-2 is estimated to have the range that could conceivably reach the United States and the fact that it failed is fact, but it does not change the nature of the launch," Rumsfeld said.
From Austin Bay at TCS Daily :
The six North Korean missiles on Tuesday are big news, but they aren't the strategic shocker. The shocker occurred in August 1998, when Pyongyang tested a long-range ballistic missile. That launch revitalized the United States-Japanese alliance and blew away any legitimate arguments that the United States could wait to develop and deploy ballistic missile defenses.
Pyongyang's 1998 test shot demonstrated that Japan and the United States -- and for that matter, Europe -- are vulnerable to rogue missile attack, and it's utterly false to argue otherwise. It meant U.S. diplomacy and the world economy are potential hostages to missile blackmail by regional tinpots.
Japan got North Korea's message. The Japanese also observed China's steady military modernization and concluded the logical, most impressive and most reliable "strategic balance" to China is the United States.
Japan and the United States began discussing a "joint ballistic missile defense shield" that would protect Japan, Alaska and Hawaii. Of course, such a system would also provide South Korea with a degree of protection, as well as the continental United States.
On June 23 of this year, the United States and Japan signed an agreement to jointly produce anti-missile missiles. The agreement formalized the existing (though often behind-the-scenes) cooperation on anti-ballistic missile (ABM) technology.
U.S. and Japanese military cooperation includes surveillance and tracking operations. A new early warning X-Band radar system is located at a Japanese Air Self-Defense Force base in Tsugaru, Aomori Prefecture. A U.S. spokesman said the radar would gather critical data on North Korean missile launches.
The United States will send several batteries of Patriot PAC-3 (Patriot Advanced Capability-3) anti-theater ballistic missiles to protect Okinawa. The PAC-3, unlike the Patriot PAC-2 of the 1991 Gulf War, is a true anti-missile missile. However, its range is limited and it is ineffective against long-range, high-speed intercontinental ballistic missiles. Still, the PAC-3 will add to a "layered" ABM defense that includes interceptor missiles on board U.S. Aegis cruisers and the handful of long-range ground-based interceptors located in Alaska and California. If the situation dictates, Okinawa-based Patriot batteries can quickly move to Japan and South Korea.
In May, the Honolulu Bulletin reported that the Aegis cruiser USS Lake Erie successfully intercepted a target missile using an improved U.S. Navy Standard-2 interceptor missile. The Lake Erie also test-fired an advanced Standard-3 anti-missile missile. Japan has destroyers with the Aegis radar system, which can detect and track ballistic missiles. The Japanese destroyers would operate as electronic eyes for a regional ABM system.