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     Jun 21, 2006
The long reach of North Korea's missiles
By Bertil Lintner

BANGKOK - North Korea may be a poor country, but it has some of the most developed missile systems in the world. Not even years of near-economic collapse, famine and hunger have hampered the country's missile-development programs, which are meant both as a preemptive defense - to scare off potential attackers - and for export.

Over the years, North Korea has earned substantial revenue from the sale of missiles, and missile components and technology. It is widely believed that the sale of missiles is the financial source for the country's nuclear program, which is the reason United

States and other Western countries are eager to stop North Korean missile exports.

According to US-based North Korea expert Joseph Bermudez, countries that have bought missile parts and technology from North Korea include Iran, Egypt, Pakistan, Libya, Syria, the United Arab Emirates and Vietnam. In recent years, however, North Korea has lost two important customers: Pakistan, which has become a US ally, and Libya, whose Muammar Gaddafi has pledged to give up his country's weapons-of-mass-destruction program.

Assisted by Soviet experts and technicians, North Korea began producing surface-to-air missiles more than 40 years ago. But the first ones were quite rudimentary, and it was not until North Korea signed a military agreement with China in 1971 that the industry took off. Gradually, however, the North Koreans themselves became capable of developing and fine-tuning their growing arsenal of missiles - together with some rather unexpected, non-communist partners.

The first was Egypt. North Korea helped that country in the war with Israel in October 1973 by providing some pilots. In return for that assistance, Egypt transferred a small number of its Soviet-supplied FROG-7B and rockets and launchers to North Korea, which had already started a ballistic-missile program. As early as 1965 - and with the Korean War still in fresh memory - the Great Leader Kim Il-sung established the Hamhung Military Academy to conduct research into missile technology. In an inaugural speech before the academy, he stated:
If war breaks out, the US and Japan will also be involved. In order to prevent their involvement, we have to be able to produce rockets which fly as far as Japan. Therefore it is the mandate of the Military Academy to develop mid- and long-range missiles.

In the early 1980s, Egypt provided North Korea with Soviet-made Scud B missiles, which can carry a 200-kilogram warhead 290 kilometers or more. None of these missiles was test-fired, but they were used as models for reverse-engineering in a string of new factories that were built near the Chinese border in the north, far away from the Demilitarized Zone and prying South Korean and US eyes. The first North Korean-made replica was finished in 1984 and called the Hwasong 5.

Throughout the Hwasong program, North Korea cooperated closely with Egypt, and part of the deal was that the North Koreans would set up a production capability for Scud-type missiles in Egypt. North Korea also realized that there was money to be made from its new invention.

At an early stage, Iran expressed an interest in buying missiles, which it needed for its long and bloody war with Iraq, from North Korea. In June 1987, the two countries concluded a US$500 million arms agreement, which included about 100 Hwasong 5s. In Iran, the missile was given a new name: the Shehab 1.

There is nothing to indicate that the Soviet Union and other communist states at this stage were involved to any significant extent in North Korea's missile development, although China provided technical training to North Korean engineers as well as high-quality machine tools.

As skills and techniques improved, North Korea began to develop more advanced missiles. The Hwasong 5 was followed by the Hwasong 6, which could be armed with chemical and cluster warheads. It was also sold to Iran as the Shehab 2.

In March 1993, North Korea test-fired a new missile called Rodong, which could carry either a 1,200kg warhead 1,300km, or a 1,000kg warhead as far as 1,500km - or enough to be able to reach major cities and US bases in Japan. A 21-member delegation headed by Brigadier-General Hossein Mantequei, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard commander in charge of Tehran's missile force, had arrived in Pyongyang to observe the test. The Iranians were satisfied, and as many as 150 Rodongs were sold to Iran, where the missile was renamed the Shehab 3.

New customers were also found in the Middle East. Not only were Syria and Libya among them, but even the conservative United Arab Emirates bought 25 Hwasong 5 missiles as well as artillery pieces and multiple rocket launchers in 1989. The UAE, however, was not pleased with the quality of the Hwasongs, and they were left to rust in a warehouse.

Outside the Middle East, Pakistan emerged as North Korea's foremost trading partner for military hardware. Pakistan initially approached North Korea to buy conventional weaponry in the early 1970s, when tension was escalating with India over East Pakistan's attempts to break away.

On September 18, 1971, the first shipment of North Korean weapons arrived in Karachi, but East Pakistan managed to break away anyway - with help from India - and form independent Bangladesh that December. The following year, North Korea and Pakistan established diplomatic relations, and North Korea sold artillery, multiple rocket launchers, ammunition, and a variety of spare parts to Pakistan. The modified Pakistani version of the North Korea's Nodong, or Rodong, missile was called the Ghauri and was first tested on April 6, 1998.

Pakistan's cooperation with North Korea came to a halt when, in late 2001, the former became an ally of the United States in the "war on terror". Now Iran has become North Korea's main partner in missile, and most likely also nuclear, development.

Apart from being a major source of hard currency, North Korea's missile-development program serves another, equally important purpose. Pyongyang has repeatedly asked Japan to pay compensation for its brutal colonial rule of Korea, from 1910 to 1945 - and Japan is extremely sensitive to North Korea's missile and nuclear capabilities. In 1999, Hwang Won-tak, adviser to then South Korean president Kim Dae-jung, indicated that the North might demand food and hard currency from Japan in return for not test-firing missiles.

In 1998, a new generation of North Korean missiles was born with the three-stage Taepodong 1, which it test-fired over Japan on August 31 from the Musudan-ni launch facility on the coast of North Hamgyong province. The Japanese were outraged and saw it as a grave provocation, but the North Koreans stated that the purpose was only to place their first satellite - the Kwangmyongsong 1 - into orbit to beam down hymns in praise of Kim Il-sung.

Whatever the case, the missile flew 1,090km from the launch site in North Korea into the Pacific Ocean east of the main Japanese island of Honshu. Since then, a Taepodong 2 with a range of 6,700km has been developed, which has brought US bases in Okinawa, Guam, Alaska and Hawaii within the potential range of North Korean missiles. The North Koreans are working on a third Taepodong, which will be capable of delivering a 500-1,000kg warhead at a distance of 10,000-12,000km - anywhere in the United States.

It is believed that it is the Taepodong 2 that North Korea now is planning to test-fire. Whether is will scare Japan, and perhaps also South Korea, into offering more aid remains to be seen. But the United States appears to be in no mood to offer North Korea anything, focusing as it is on finding ways to choke off North Korea's lethal exports - and to eliminate any threat that those missiles pose to US interests and security.


Short-range ballistic missiles (SRBM)

Range: 60-160km
Warhead: 190kg
Year developed: 1976

Range: 600km
Warhead: 1,000kg
Year developed: na

Scud B (R-17E)
Range: 300km
Warhead: 1,000kg
Year developed: 1981

Hwasong 5 (Prototype Scud Model A)
Range: 300km
Warhead: 1,000kg
Year developed: 1984

Hwasong 5 (Scud Model B)
Range: 320-340km
Warhead: 1,000kg
Year developed: 1985
(Note: In Iran, the Hwasong 5 is known as the Shehab 1)

Hwasong 6 (Scud Model C; Scud PIP)
Range: 500km
Warhead: 770kg
Year developed: 1989

Medium-range ballistic missiles (MRBM)

Nodong (Nodong 1, Rodong 1, Scud Model D)
Range: 1,350-1,500km
Warhead: 1,200kg
Year developed: 1993
(Note: the Pakistani copy of the Nodong is called the Ghauri. The Nodong has a range of 1,350km with a 1,200kg warhead; the Ghauri has a range of 1,500km with a 700kg warhead. The Nodong 1 is known as the Shehab 3 in Iran)

Taepodong 1 (Daepodong 1, Nodong 2, Scud X, Scud Model E, Rodong 2)
Range: 2,500km
Warhead: 700-1,000kg
Year developed: 1998
(Note: This is the kind of missile that the North Koreans test-fired over Japan in August 1998. Range according to the latest estimate by the South Korean Ministry of Defense. Earlier estimates were 1,500-2,000km)

Intermediate-range ballistic missiles (IRBM)

Taepodong 1 SLV

Range: 4,000km
Warhead: 50-100kg
Year developed: 1998

Intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM)

Taepodong 2 (Daepodong 2, Nodong 3)
Range: 6,700km
Warhead: 700-1,000kg
Year developed: 2000
(Latest estimate by the South Korean Ministry of Defense. Earlier estimates were 4,000-6,000km)

Three-stage Taepodong 2 (Taepodong 3)
Range: 10,000-12,000km
Warhead: 500-1,000kg
Year developed: Being developed

Range requirements
The entire South Korea - 500km
US bases in Japan and major Japanese cities: 1,000-1,500km
US bases in Alaska and Hawaii: 4,000-6,000km
Continental US: 6,000+km
(Source: Joseph S Bermudez Jr, Shield of the Great Leader: The Armed Forces of North Korea, Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 2001.

Bertil Lintner
is a former correspondent with the Far Eastern Economic Review and the author of
Great Leader, Dear Leader: Demystifying North Korea under the Kim Clan. He is currently a writer with Asia-Pacific Media Services.

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