The US has no plans to try to intercept a rocket North Korea plans to launch in coming days even though it is a step toward developing an intercontinental ballistic missile that could carry a nuclear warhead, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said.
North Korea says it plans to launch a communications satellite into orbit between this coming Saturday and April 8 as part of its space program. The US and other nations believe that the launch is actually a test of the North's technology for a long-range missile and therefore a violation of a 2006 UN Security Council resolution prohibiting ballistic activity by the Asian country.
"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 in a television interview broadcast on "Fox News Sunday."
Gates said the U.S. has no plans to try to shoot down the North Korean missile but might consider trying if an "aberrant missile" were headed to Hawaii "or something like that." He said he didn't believe a missile from the North could reach the west coast of the US or Alaska.