2006-07-08

Pearl Harbor II? Don't belive it

This is actually a geography post (Background (i) (ii) (iii)).

Apparently someone in Japan got very imaginative (or had some weed, got over-excited, or deliberate rumour mongering to capitalize on this incident - pick you choice), NK Zone wondered if it is supposed to be Pearl Harbor II, I guess half-jokingly.
  • "A North Korean missile launched on Wednesday was aimed at an area of the ocean close to Hawaii, a Japanese newspaper reported on Friday"
I googled the news reports, and found that "that Japanese newspaper" is, surprise, nothing but the notorious right wing Sankei Shinbum, a die-hard Yasukuni propaganda organ and WWII atrocity apologist, who also has an interest in re-militarizing Japan.

Now why I think Sankei's claim is bullshit. Here comes the geography.
  • Although the theoretical estimate for the range of Taepodong-2 is large, 4000-10000km. The particular missile fired this week was believed to have a maximum range of 6000km (see, eg, Reuter report above), i.e. at best reaching somewhere in Alaska northwest of Anchorage, had the launch been successful. The estimate is based on the payload (assumed very small) and the amount of fuel and the type of fuel used in the rocket
  • Now the great circle (shortest path) distance between Pyongyang and Anchorage is 6000km, and Pyongyang-Honululu 7400km (the launch pad at Musudan-ri is located at the NE of Poyongyang so one could subtract about 200km in the 2 numbers above) -- always remember that the distance is longer if the destination is closer to the equator, since our maps exaggerate distance near the poles.
If Sankei is right, then the missile range need to be at least 1400km longer than previously thought. So either the pentagon is wrong, or Sankei is churning out a lot of bullshit. Of course, you can argue that Sankei only said "oceans near Hawaii". Well, the width of the "Sea of Japan" is about 800km at most, from Hokaiddo to the East coast of Korea. 1400km is almost twice that distance. That is pretty far away from Hawaii.

p.s. there are a lot of obvious errors in these new reports. e.g. the KHON link (perhaps it was a direct translation from Sankei) above had the missile range and the distance to Hawaii totally wrong. It then made a further mistake of saying the path to Hawaii does not pass a land area - Japan is in between N Korea and Hawaii!

Relates: With Few N. Korea Facts, a Rumor Got Launched
A warhead found in Alaska? The report's longevity illustrates the uncertainty and fear. -- LA Times


Update:
1) globalsecurity senior fellow CP Vick has a comprehensive analysis, the satellite launch theory seems to be the most likely -- consistent with my post here, that it either aims at the open sea or is a satellite launch. In any case, Hawaii was not the target, not was any US base from Alaska to California. If it were a satellite, then it could pass through the ocean near Hawaii, in theory.
  • "Almost certainly it was a satellite launch at an inclination of 41 degrees or perhaps a three stage booster dummy warhead launch to impact down range in the south Pacific relative to South America"
2) NK Zone hypothesizes NK's rationale for the launch and predicts the next launch
Categories:

5 comments:

LfC said...

Excellent analysis.

"Japan's conservative mainstream daily ... quoted unidentified Japanese and U.S. government officials." (AP)

http://www.boston.com/news/world/asia/articles/2006/07/06/report_n_korea_missile_aimed_at_hawaii/

Mainstream indeed.

Sun Bin said...

Thanks for the link. Boston Globe is actually pretty good (perhaps better than all the ransom samples I got from google news). It said,

"It said the findings support a belief North Korean intended the launch as a protest over U.S. economic sanctions against the isolated regime.

But Pentagon officials said Thursday that the brief flight of the Taepodong-2 missile made it difficult to collect useful technical data, including its intended target, its payload and whether it was a two-stage or three-stage missile.

Some U.S. officials were even leaning toward the theory that it was configured as a space launch to deliver a satellite into orbit, rather than as a flight test of a ballistic missile."

dylan said...

Yomiuri and Sankei must be in cahoots:
"The data showed that the missile traveled east-northeast from the Musudanri site.

If it had flown to its maximum range, it very likely would have flown over the Tsugaru Strait and fallen in the central Pacific Ocean between Japan and Hawaii.

The distance between North Korea and Hawaii is about 7,000 kilometers. If the missile was fired successfully toward Hawaii, its trajectory would take it outside the Earth's atmosphere over the Tsugaru Strait, which is located east-northeast from North Korea. "

Sun Bin said...

dylan, is this the yomiuri link?

This is what it said,
---
"The official told reporters, "It might have been a little off, due to the Earth's rotation, but it was approximately fired toward Hawaii in the United States."

The government believes the Taepodong-2 has a range of 3,500 kilometers to 6,000 kilometers. Hawaii is about 7,000 kilometers from Musudanri, the Taepodong-2 launch site in the northeastern part of North Korea. It is not known whether the ballistic missile could actually reach the U.S. state. "
---
still 1000km short of hawaii, if the direction is, as it said, 'approximately via tsugaru'.

if you click on the greatr circle link above in my post, you would see to reach hawaii the missile should pass roughly over sendai, mid-point between tsugaru and tokyo in honshu.

so the projection from tsugaru should mean about 1000-2000 km north of hawaii......i guess you can still call that 'hawaii' if you want. though a better description would be 'middle of nowhere' in the pacific

Sun Bin said...

talk about predictability! I am the prophet :-(