- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 3, 2004

LONDON (Agence France-Presse) — North Korea is developing a pair of new ballistic-missile systems, including a sea-launched model that soon could enable the communist state to target the continental United States, a leading military publication said yesterday.

“Both these new land- and sea-based systems appreciably expand the ballistic-missile threat presented by the DPRK,” a report in Jane’s Defense Weekly said, using the official name for the country, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

The version of the missile capable of being launched from submarines or ships “is potentially the most threatening,” the weekly said.

“It would fundamentally alter the missile threat posed by the DPRK and could finally provide its leadership with something that it has long sought to obtain — the ability to directly threaten the continental U.S.”

Information about North Korea’s military capabilities is sketchy because of the ultra-secretive nature of the hard-line communist regime, which has been ruled for the past half-century by father-and-son dictators Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il.

However, the country is known to possess ballistic-missile technology. In August 1998, Pyongyang stunned the world by test-launching a Taepo-Dong-1 missile over Japan, officially saying it was a satellite launch.

Four years later, the United States said North Korea had acknowledged that it was developing nuclear weapons, prompting a series of as-yet unsuccessful talks involving Washington as well as China, South Korea, Russia and Japan.

According to Jane’s Defense Weekly, North Korea is working on a pair of missile systems based on Russian technology, completely different from the Taepo-Dong-1 and its mooted successor, the Taepo-Dong-2.

The new systems are based on the defunct Soviet R-27 submarine-launched ballistic missile, known to NATO at the time as the SS-N-6, Jane’s said.

The land-based model has an estimated range of 1,560 to 2,500 miles, bringing into range all of East Asia, as well as Hawaii and U.S. military bases on the Pacific islands of Okinawa and Guam.

The sea-launched model could be fired at least 1,500 miles, the article said.

The origin of the new missiles is thought to have been shown by an incident in 1992, when specialists from the Makeyev Design Bureau in Chelyabinsk, Russia, which developed the R-27, were detained as they tried to leave for North Korea.

“Reports indicate that other groups of missile specialists successfully traveled to the DPRK,” Jane’s said.

Then in 1993, the North Korean navy bought 12 decommissioned Russian submarines, ostensibly for scrap metal.

Some of these had been equipped to blast ballistic missiles. All missiles and firing systems were removed, but the submarines still had “significant elements” of launch systems.

“This technology, in combination with the R-27 design, provided the Korean People’s Navy with elements crucial to the subsequent development of a submarine or ship-mounted ballistic-missile system,” the report said.

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