N. Korea Has Quietly Built Long-Range Missile Base 23 replies

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Psychokenesis

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16th October 2003

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#1 10 years ago

By PAMELA HESS, Associated Press Writer 30 minutes ago

WASHINGTON - North Korea has quietly built a long-range missile base that is larger and more capable than an older and well-known launch pad for intercontinental ballistic missiles, according to independent analysts relying on new satellite images of the site and other data. Analysts provided images of the previously secret site to The Associated Press.

Construction on the site on North Korea's west coast began at least eight years ago, according to Joseph S. Bermudez, Jr., senior analyst with Jane's Information Group, and Tim Brown with Talent-keyhole.com, a private satellite imagery analysis company. Bermudez first located the site in early spring and they have tracked its construction using commercial and unclassified satellite imagery.

"The primary purpose of the facility is to test," Bermudez told The Associated Press in an interview last week. A base capable of a long-range test could obviously be used in wartime to launch a missile that carried a warhead.

"This is a clear indication North Korea is continuing its ballistic missile development program," Bermudez said.

Bermudez is also unveiling the images on the defense web site Janes.com and in the Sept. 17 edition of Jane's Defence Weekly.

He said the launch pad has been operational since 2005 but has not yet been used. He believes North Korea wants to use it to develop longer-range and more accurate ICBMs. It could also launch satellites into space.

Although North Korea has been long thought to want additional missile capability and test facilities, this is the first public disclosure of the new launch facility, according to Bermudez, Brown and John Pike, an imagery analyst with GlobalSecurity.org, who first reviewed the information last week.

Pike said the new facility represents a major step forward for North Korea's long-range missile program as it would allow multiple test flights in a short time, which is difficult at the smaller, original long-range missile launch site known as Musudan-ni.

"This would be a facility to conduct a real flight-test program and develop something that you have some operational confidence in," Pike told the Associated Press. "It would suggest they have the intention to develop the capability to perfect a missile to deliver atomic bombs to the United States."

"At the old facility, (a robust test program) just wasn't going to happen," he said.

Pike and Brown identified Musudan-ni nine years ago when they were both with the Federation of American Scientists in Washington.

A U.S. counterproliferation official said U.S. intelligence has been aware of the North Korean site for several years. He spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss classified information.

North Korea has not used the new site, but could at any time, U.S. intelligence officials and the outside analysts said.

"There is no reason they couldn't launch in the near future," Brown told The Associated Press.

Construction has continued even as the U.S. government renewed its attempt to persuade North Korea to shut down its nuclear weapons program. Those negotiations do not address North Korea's long-range missile program, but would give North Korea much-desired economic and political incentives in exchange for giving up nuclear weapons.

The deal's future may be in doubt with news this week that Kim Jong Il, who has held absolute rule in the impoverished, isolated Stalinist regime, may have been incapacitated by a stroke or other health crisis. North Korean authorities deny he is ailing.

The new launch facility exceeds in both size and sophistication the Musudan-ni base on North Korea's east coast, images from DigitalGlobe and GeoEye suggest.

North Korea launched a failed long-range Taepodong-2 space launch vehicle in 2006 from Musudan-ni. That test alarmed the world and gave new energy to the stop-and-start diplomacy over North Korea's nuclear program. It also conducted a surprise launch of a Taepodong-1 over Japan in 1998 from that east coast site.

Pyongyang has not yet attempted to launch the ballistic missile version of Taepodong-2, which is estimated to have a maximum range of about 2,500 miles, potentially threatening the western edge of Alaska. The range could be extended with engine improvements and light payloads.

The new launch facility is built on the site of a small village called Pongdong-ni which was displaced during construction. It includes a movable launch pad and 10-story tall tower capable of supporting North Korea's largest ballistic missiles and rockets. It also includes a rocket motor test pad, which Brown and Bermudez said is similar in size and design to a rocket test facility outside of Tehran, Iran. There are also support buildings.

"The discovery of this new facility demonstrates that North Korea is still conducting an ambitious ballistic missile program and may still have plans to launch satellites into space," Brown said.

Bermudez and Brown refer to the site as the Tongch'ang-dong launch facility, naming it after the closest village. U.S. intelligence does not use the same name for the site. Officials would not immediately divulge the term they use.

The base is not quite complete, according to Pike, who reviewed the most recent imagery Tuesday and said it is still missing a vertical assembly building where the missile would undergo its final assembly before being rolled to the launch site. Brown and Bermudez have not yet found optical or radar tracking facilities; they believe North Korea will rely on mobile or shipboard radar systems in tests. They have also not identified fixed air defense systems that would protect the facility from air attack.

But the site does have an engine test stand, a critical facility for measuring vibration from the engines and adjusting guidance systems to account for it, Bermudez said.

"The engine test stand means they now have the ability to increase the reliability of whatever system" they develop, he said.

Brown and Bermudez say the new launch facility is more protected from surveillance aircraft than Musudan-ni because it is mostly surrounded by hills. Its proximity to Chinese airspace could also discourage close observation by plane, as the U.S. military may want to avoid a repeat of the 2001 collision of a U.S. spy plane and a Chinese fighter.

North Korea is believed to possess up to a dozen nuclear warheads. The new launch pad would help in the development of missiles to carry them, he said. In 2006, North Korea conducted an underground nuclear test, removing any doubt it had the means to make a nuclear warhead. Its previous missile test showed it also had the means to deliver one.

North Korea has agreed in principle to forswear nuclear weapons and the plutonium used to fuel them. It placed its known plutonium-producing reactor out of commission earlier this year, but has recently backtracked by taking some equipment back out of storage in possible preparation to restart the reactor.

In June, North Korea destroyed the reactor's distinctive conical cooling tower as a symbolic show of good faith with the United States and other nations bargaining with it. But the deal has since stalled over North Korea's obligations to allow intensive international fact-checking of its past nuclear activities.

North Korea claims the U.S. has not held up its end of a nuclear disarmament deal because it has not removed the North from a list of state sponsors of terrorism

And so the plot thickens. Just when you thought Korea had settled down...




Penguin_Unit

Uh-oh.

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8th May 2007

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#2 10 years ago

I didn't believe for a second that they'd stopped. And back in '94, if I remember right, they admitted to having lied about stopping the program, too.




young Obi-Wan

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17th October 2002

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#3 10 years ago

At least Kim Jong Il seems to be ill now.




Granyaski VIP Member

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#4 10 years ago

Well they have had a bad past, they are enemies with a number of countries But why is this seen a bad thing?I mean don't most countries secretly do stuff?even building rockets?




Guest

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#5 10 years ago

Eventually either Korea, Russia, or the Middle East is gonna launch some sorta rocket at the US and BAM! WW3




Serio VIP Member

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#6 10 years ago
¬ _ ¬;4569622Eventually either Korea, Russia, or the Middle East is gonna launch some sorta rocket at the US and BAM! WW3

Doing that would just result in 5000 rockets being returned with express mail. No one is stupid enough to do that.




Tas

Serious business brigade

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4th September 2004

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#7 10 years ago
¬ _ ¬;4569622Eventually either Korea, Russia, or the Middle East is gonna launch some sorta rocket at the US and BAM! WW3

[COLOR=SeaGreen][COLOR=Black]Nope.

Firstly, the US can track such missiles wherever they have the appropriate assets in place, which is basically the entire world, so they'll know it was "whatever evil country" and not some-one else. You can be damn sure western powers have plenty of radar coverage on the suspect countries, which Russia itself is not a part of, but is covered due to old conflicts.

Secondly, it makes no sense for any of the current nuclear powers, or any power for that matter to conduct a limited nuclear/conventional strike on US Soil. Any such attack would simply end up in the responsible country getting shock 'n awed back to the stone age with good ol Tomahawks and JDAMS at the very least.

So no, i don't think WW3 is going to start over some random (nuke) attack, it just wouldn't make any sense. [/COLOR]

[/COLOR]




Buddy Jesus

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6th September 2004

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#8 10 years ago

Quite honestly the only thing to come from this most recent developments is the increased proliferation of the area. In other words Japan and south korea now have more of a case to increase their military strength.




Guest

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#9 10 years ago

Who cares ? Truelly who gives a rats arse ? Let em, chineese dont really like em, south korea hate em, japs hate em, we hate em, forget them, chineese will sort them out, they live in a place that was once china ! Its not a place we want to go or be. We should just supply arms ! Get rich ! Man my bad ! hahaah we suck see ! Let em all bomb crap out eachother, keeps em NOT focused on australias resources ! LOL LOL LOL !




Psychokenesis

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#10 10 years ago

The Chineese have prided themselves on a stable relationship with N. Korea. They try to stay out of they're way when possible.