- The Washington Times - Monday, September 8, 2003

North Korea is expected to display as early as today one or two new long-range missiles, including a system capable of hitting the Western United States, U.S. officials said yesterday.

One new missile is believed to be an intermediate-range ballistic missile with a range of up to several thousand miles.

A second missile, which could be shown during a military parade today in Pyongyang, is a new version of the Taepo Dong 2 intercontinental ballistic missile, said administration officials with access to intelligence reports.

Intelligence agencies are closely watching the military parade to be held in the North Korean capital’s main square that marks the 55th anniversary of the founding of the communist state, one of the last totalitarian regimes from the Cold War.

“Our best thinking at this point is they’re going to show us a new missile,” one official said. “They might do something else.”

The official did not elaborate, but some intelligence officials said they believe North Korea could conduct its first underground nuclear test, following through with threats made by North Korean officials at recent talks on Pyongyang’s nuclear program.

The official said the new longer-range missile is being described within the U.S. government as the “Taepo Dong X.” Intelligence analysts estimate it to have a range longer than the Taepo Dong 2 and to have greater accuracy than earlier versions of the Taepo Dong 2, the official said.

The Taepo Dong 2 is believed to have a range of up to 2,300 miles with a payload of up to several hundred pounds.

A second official said the new intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) is a road-mobile system with a range of up to 3,400 miles. The official did not disclose the name of the new IRBM.

The missile will be capable of hitting Japan and the U.S. island of Guam, where the Pentagon has deployed attack submarines and stockpiles of air-launched cruise missiles for U.S. bombers.

The IRBM development was first disclosed by South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo newspaper and confirmed by U.S. officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Neither new missile has been tested, so range estimates vary, the officials said.

U.S. intelligence agencies classify intermediate-range missiles as those that can travel between 1,800 miles and 3,400 miles. Intercontinental-range missiles can exceed 3,400 miles.

The first official said the new “Taepo Dong X” is estimated by intelligence analysts to have enough range to land a warhead on Hawaii, Alaska, California and “most of the West Coast.”

This official said he did not believe that the North Koreans would conduct a missile flight test on the anniversary today.

Disclosure of North Korea’s new missiles come as tensions remain high in Northeast Asia over Pyongyang’s drive to build nuclear weapons.

Six-party talks in Beijing ended last month with no resolution of North Korea’s abrogation of a 1994 agreement freezing its nuclear arms program.

Australia and the United States, along with representatives of nine other nations, plan to hold an exercise next week to simulate the interception of a shipment of weapons at sea.

The exercise, known as Pacific Protector, is part of the Bush administration’s Proliferation Security Initiative, which is aimed at curbing North Korean exports of missiles and weapons of mass destruction.

A CIA report in 2001 stated that North Korea’s “willingness to sell complete systems and components has enabled other states to acquire longer range capabilities earlier than otherwise would have been possible, notably the sale of the No Dong [medium-range ballistic missile] to Pakistan.”

The report said North Korea also helped Iran copy a No Dong missile for its recently deployed Shahab-3 medium-range mobile missile.

The North Korean nuclear issue arose in October when Pyongyang officials acknowledged that the country was building uranium-based nuclear weapons in addition to the plutonium-based arms that were to be frozen by the 1994 Agreed Framework.

Regarding a nuclear test, the second official said: “It is certainly something we are looking for. It’s a possibility.”

The second official said there are no indications of an imminent North Korean nuclear test but that any evidence would be unlikely because of the North Korean government’s secretive nature.

North Korea has adopted a variation on its communist ideology that Pyongyang calls the “military-first” policy, a derivative of its Marxist-Leninist doctrine of self-reliance, known as juche.

North Korea announced in the aftermath of six-way talks in Beijing on its nuclear program that it will add to its nuclear “deterrent” as a result of the hostile policy of the United States.

Officials said the presentation of new missiles likely would increase tensions in the region, especially in Japan, which recently announced that it would deploy missile defenses to counter North Korean missiles.

Japan’s government said last month it plans to buy U.S. Patriot missiles and sea-based Standard missiles that can be used as part of a ship-based defense on Japan’s Aegis-equipped warships.

North Korea surprised U.S. intelligence agencies in August 1998 by test-firing its first Taepo Dong missile, which Pyongyang described as a space launcher that attempted to put a satellite in orbit.

“I think that [showing the new missiles] will cause heart palpitations in Japan,” the first official said.

President Bush announced in December that he ordered the Pentagon to deploy a missile defense against long-range missiles by 2004.

A key factor in the president’s deployment decision is the threat posed by North Korea’s long-range missiles, Pentagon officials have said.

North Korea builds three types of missiles: short-range Scuds, medium-range No Dongs and long-range Taepo Dongs.

It has exported both Scud and No Dong missiles to Middle Eastern states.

North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency said last week that the United States is “becoming more reckless in its military moves” while seeking peace and dialogue.

The agency stated that U.S. development of nuclear weapons is “aimed at making a pre-emptive nuclear attack” on North Korea and “launching an armed invasion.”

“[North Korea] is fully ready for dialogue and war,” the news agency stated. “The U.S. would be well-advised to halt its reckless threat and blackmail against its dialogue partner.”

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