By Jung Sung-ki
The United States has successfully intercepted missiles flying from North Korea three times in virtual scenarios testing its ballistic missile defense system, a senior Pentagon official said Wednesday.
North Korea, meanwhile, vowed to launch a ``satellite'' into orbit citing Iran's recent successful space mission.
``The peaceful advance into space and its use is a just policy of our republic that matches with the current times, and no one can stop us,'' the North's state-run radio Korean Central Broadcasting Station said Wednesday night.
Gen. Patrick O'Reilly, director of the Missile Defense Agency of the U.S. Department of Defense, was quoted by Yonhap News Agency during a Congressional hearing as saying, ``Based on the scenarios that we've tested three times, although it's limited and it's in the beginning, those scenarios overlay a launch from North Korea and a response out of Alaska. And so we have tested three times that scenario first, for obvious reasons. And that is the source of my confidence,'' in response to a question about whether the U.S. missile defense system could defend the American people from the current North Korean threat.
Concerns have lingered over the viability of the U.S. missile defense system, although the Pentagon has said it successfully conducted tests last year to intercept missiles approaching from other countries.
``Second of all, our firing doctrine is that we have a significant number of missiles, so we can put a significant number of missiles in the air at once,'' he continued. ``And that each time significantly increases the overall probability that you are going to be successful.''
His remarks came after U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates hinted last week that the U.S. might intercept a Taepodong-2 ballistic missile should one approach American territory.
North Korea announced that it was preparing to launch a ``communications satellite,'' although South Korean and U.S. officials say that it would be in violation of a U.N. resolution banning ballistic missile activities.
Analysts describe the move as a bid to improve its bargaining power with the Obama administration over the stalled aid-for-disarmament deal.
Earlier, Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon press secretary, told reporters that the U.S. would defend South Korea against any provocation from North Korea.
``All I can tell you is that the U.S.-ROK alliance is a strong one. We have many plans for a multitude of contingencies, were there to be provocative action by the North,'' he said. ``And we feel we are well prepared to defend the South against any provocation.''