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News Briefs II

Laser Strike During Test Shows Vulnerability of Satellites

Los Angeles Times

In a controversial test that offers new proof of the vulnerability of the world's growing fleet of government and commercial satellites, a ground-based Army laser has struck a satellite orbiting 260 miles above the Earth.

Pentagon officials said Monday that after two false starts in recent weeks, the infrared beam of the huge Miracl laser had struck the military's MISTI-3 as it appeared on the horizon Friday evening.

The Pentagon has portrayed the test as nothing more than a defensive step intended to gather data on the vulnerability of the U.S. satellite fleet, which is by far the largest in the world. Officials maintain that the United States has good reason to explore these risks, since other countries, including Russia, China and a number of Western industrialized nations, have laser capabilities.

Air Force Lt. Col. Bob Potter, a Pentagon spokesman, said scientists are evaluating the data sent back to Earth from the satellite. While the laser beam generated some heat on the satellite, Potter said the craft was not damaged by the test and is still functional.

Army scientists are hoping to use the data to assess how much destructive power can be trained on a satellite from a ground-based laser.

U.S. Team Will Visit North Korea To Assess Worsening Famine

Los Angeles Times

North Korea, one of the world's most secretive and closed societies, will allow a U.S. government team to visit the country for a firsthand assessment of a worsening famine, the Clinton administration said Monday.

The regime's decision to admit the inspection team, which arrives Saturday, suggests that the government in Pyongyang has decided to bend a little in order to get the donated food needed to alleviate the country's spreading hunger.

"The United States regards the food situation in North Korea as very serious," State Department spokesman James P. Rubin said. He stressed that the goal of the inspection, the first by a U.S. government team, is to make sure that food is not being diverted to feed the country's million-member army. "The report of this team is designed to help us better understand the situation."

The seven-member U.S. team will be headed by Leonard Rogers, an administrator for the Agency for International Development.

Rubin also said that North Korea has agreed to admit additional monitors from the World Food Program, apparently ending a standoff that had caused some countries, including the United States, to balk at sending large quantities of food to the country.