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Posted : 2009-03-26 18:35
Updated : 2009-03-26 18:35

Allied Warships on Alert Over N. Korean Rocket Launch


KDX-III Aegis destroyer
By Jung Sung-ki
Staff Reporter

The Navy plans to send its 7,600-ton KDX-III Aegis destroyer to the East Sea to monitor North Korea's planned launch of a ``rocket'' in the coming weeks, government sources said Thursday.

The South Korean Aegis destroyer is expected to maneuver in the eastern waters with four other Aegis warships of the U.S. Navy and Japan's Maritime Self-Defense Forces to detect, track or intercept the rocket if needed. The U.S. and Japanese Aegis ships are equipped with advanced SM-3 ship-to-air missiles used in intercepting ballistic missiles.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said if the North launches a ``satellite,'' the South will raise the issue with the U.N. Security Council (UNSC) after consultation with other nations.

Ministry spokesman Moon Tae-young demanded that Pyongyang stop the rocket launch, calling it ``provocative act.''

U.S Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also said Washington intends to raise this violation of a UN Security Council Resolution.

Seoul's Ministry of Defense spokesman Won Tae-jae said the rocket launch will be a ``serious challenge and provocation'' to the security in Northeast Asia as well as on the Korean Peninsula.

The Aegis deployment followed reports that North Korea has placed what is believed to be a long-range ballistic missile on a launch pad.

Whether the object is a missile or a satellite launch vehicle remains unclear because its tip is covered, according to U.S. intelligence sources.

Lt. Cmdr. Bae Sung-woo at the Navy's public affairs office declined to comment on the dispatch of the Aegis ship, citing the sensitivity of military operations.

The Sejong the Great, the first of three planned Aegis destroyers for the South Korean Navy, began operations last December after 19 months of sea trials.

The destroyer is fitted with the Lockheed Martin-built Aegis Combat System capable of simultaneous operations against aircraft, ballistic and cruise missiles, ships and submarines.

The ship's SPY-1D radar can track some 1,000 aircraft within a 500-kilometer radius simultaneously, providing full 360-degree coverage. The Aegis ship can sail at a top speed of 30 knots, with a cruising range of 10,000 kilometers.

The 166-meter-long, 21-meter-wide vessel can carry 128 sophisticated missiles, including SM-2 ship-to-air missiles with a range of 170 kilometers and indigenous ship-to-ship missiles.

North Korea earlier announced its intention to put a communications satellite into orbit. The United States and its allies worry the claim is a cover for the launch of a Taepodong-2 missile capable of reaching Alaska.

gallantjung@koreatimes.co.kr

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