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Wednesday, June 21, 2006

North Korea's growing missile arsenal

June 21 (Reuters) - North Korea has accelerated preparations for testing an intercontinental ballistic missile, U.S. officials have said this week.

North Korea has hundreds of short, intermediate and long-range range missiles, putting South Korea and Japan at risk, experts say.

The following is information about the North Korean missile programme based on reports by experts in the field:


North Korea has more than 800 ballistic missiles. It has sold missiles overseas, with Iran being one of the large purchasers.

There are more than 600 Scud missiles of various types and 200 Rodong missiles.

The Scud-type missiles include the Hwasong-5, with a range of about 300 km (190 miles) and the Hwasong-6, with a range of about 500 km.

The Rodong has an estimated range of 1,000 to 1,400 km. In addition, the country has short-range missiles called the KN-02 which can travel 100 km to 120 km.

The Taepodong-1 is a multi-stage missile with an estimated range of about 2,000 km to 2,300 km. It uses liquid fuel. This missile was shot over Japan in 1998.


The Taepodong-2 is a multi-stage missile under development with a possible range of 3,500 km to 4,300 km, which could put parts of Alaska in range. The range could extend from 5,000 km to 7,000 km, or even longer depending on North Korea's engine technologies and payload, experts have said.

The Taepodong-X is a solid fuel missile with an estimated range of 2,500 km to 4,000 km and could reach U.S. bases in Japan and Guam.

North Korea does not have an operational missile that can hit the continental United States, many experts have said.


North Korea began its missile programme in cooperation with the former Soviet Union in the early 1960s. North Korea eventually obtained Soviet Scud-B missiles, with the consensus view being they came from Egypt between 1976 and 1981.

In the mid-1970s, Beijing and Pyongyang cooperated in the development of a 600-km range ballistic missile.


Most analysts agree North Korea is some time away from building a nuclear warhead small enough to fit on a missile. The accuracy of the mid- to long-range missiles was also suspect.


It would be difficult to locate and destroy North Korea's KN-02, Hwasong, Rodong and Taepodong-X missiles because of their mobility, quantity and relatively short launch preparation times, experts say.

But the Taepodong-1 and Taepodong-2 missiles would be launched from fixed sites that are known to U.S. and South Korean forces and are vulnerable to attack. Launch preparations can also be viewed from spy satellites. (Sources: Center for Nonproliferation Studies, South Korean Defence Ministry, Rand, National Air and Space Intelligence Center)
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