By Barbara Starr
North Korea likely engaged in a deliberate campaign of deception before a December 12 long-range missile launch, catching the United States and its Asian allies "off guard," according to a U.S. official with direct knowledge of analysis of the incident conducted by U.S. military and intelligence agencies.
The official told CNN that American and Japanese military ships and missile defenses were fully operational and protecting land, sea and airspace on December 12, but that the launch was a surprise when it actually happened.
"We had our dukes up, operationally, but we were caught off guard," the official said.
"The clues point to a concerted effort to deceive us," the official said. The analysis was ordered in the wake of the launch to determine what exactly happened and how much the U.S. intelligence knew at the time.
By Paula Hancocks and Greg Botelho
The rocket launched earlier this month by North Korea had the capability to travel more than 6,000 miles, meaning this type of rocket could strike the United States, South Korean defense officials said.
In remarks to reporters Friday, which were embargoed until Sunday, three officials with South Korea's defense ministry offered their observations about the December 12 launch based on a recovered oxidizer tank that had been part of one of the rocket's boosters. According to NASA, an oxidizer tank contains oxygen compounds that allow rocket fuel to burn in the atmosphere and outside of it, in space.
North Korean officials cheered what they hailed as a successful launch of a long-range rocket, which they said put a satellite in orbit. But the mission drew international condemnation, with many viewing it as cover for testing of ballistic missile technology, which the United Nations has forbidden Pyongyang from using.
The South Korean military officials said the evidence they found helps show their nuclear-equipped rival's intent and progress in developing intercontinental ballistic missiles.FULL STORY
By Elise Labott
North Korea's success in launching a satellite into orbit has put the Obama administration on unfamiliar ground, no longer able to dismiss North Korea's efforts as failure but loath to acknowledge its success.
Moreover, beyond its typical response of statements of condemnation and efforts at strengthening sanctions, the U.S. does not seem to have a playbook for curbing North Korea's increasingly threatening behavior.
The U.S. government was braced before the launch, with Asia hands across the U.S. government tracking North Korea's preparations and warning against going through with it. Officials have voiced concern that such a feat would prompt an arms race in East Asia.
"We've been very concerned about their firing this missile, in violation of every international standard and rule," Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told CNN's Erin Burnett. "It's clear that have one of the reasons we're rebalancing in the Pacific is to deal with the threat from North Korea, and we will. We're prepared to do that. We will respond if we have to."
By Mike Mount
North Korea's latest missile launch moved the United States into new territory as the success of putting a satellite into orbit could also mean the reclusive country is one giant step closer to firing a missile across the Pacific.
The United States is examining information from Wednesday's launch to gather clues about the capabilities of North Korea's rocket technology that can be converted for use in long-range missiles.
Experts say the launch shows North Korea's rocket has the range to hit Hawaii and parts of the West Coast of the United States.
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta told CNN's Erin Burnett on Wednesday he is "confident" the United States could stop an incoming missile from North Korea.
By Mike Mount
The North Korean rocket launch caught the United States by surprise as it occurred earlier than expected, defense and senior U.S. officials told CNN on Wednesday.
Military and intelligence were on heightened readiness for the launch because of intelligence and that North Korea had announced a window, according to a defense official.
One U.S. official disputed the suggestion that the launch was a surprise saying that, "North Korea's launch occurred during the anticipated window."