North Korea Builds Up Missiles

According to a South Korean newspaper, North Korea is building two underground launching sites capable of deploying intermediate-range ballistic missiles. If successfully established, the new missiles could reach as far as Guam and possibly Hawaii, says the Chosun Ilbo newspaper. Defense experts say that Pyongyang is trying to demonstrate its limited military muscle. But, they caution, it could also be used as a justification for the US to install a missile defense system in Northeast Asia, potentially triggering a change of strategic balance in the region. In the meantime, a working group meeting is expected to be held in Beijing in mid-May as a part of the six-nation negotiations on the North's nuclear program. If the Chosun Ilbo report is verified, the road to a peaceful resolution of the North Korean crisis will be longer than many expected. – YaleGlobal

North Korea Builds Up Missiles

Pyongyang is constructing new sites for ballistic missiles
Joo Sang-min
Wednesday, May 5, 2004

North Korea is reported to be building two underground launching sites aimed at deploying an intermediate-range ballistic missile with a target distance of up to 4,000 kilometers following successful development last year.

The missile is capable of reaching U.S. military bases in Guam or possibly Hawaii, the new report said.

"Two missile stations in Yangduk in western Pyeongan Province and in Heocheon in northeastern Hamgyeong are under construction with 70 to 80 percent completed," the Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported, citing an unidentified South Korean official.

The source said a U.S. spy satellite has detected about 10 new ballistic missiles and mobile launching pads at these bases.

But the South Korean military avoided commenting on the report.

"We can't confirm nor deny the report, as similar stories have already been covered by the media," said Defense Ministry spokesman Brig. Gen. Nam Dai-yeon in a news briefing.

United States Forces Korea also refused to comment on the report, saying, "We do not discuss (these) operational issues." The USFK spokesperson did not elaborate on this comment.

The new system is clearly set apart from the North's mainstay lineup of Scud and Rodong missiles that can fly much shorter distances. The missiles are reportedly 12 meters long and 1.5 meters wide, which are smaller than the already deployed missiles, but it can travel farther and is technically enhanced as it could be launched from a vehicle.

The North has about 500 Scud missiles with ranges of 300 kilometers to 500 kilometers and keeps most of its short and medium-range missiles. Also in its stockpiles is a huge amount of tanks in some 11,000 underground facilities.

The communist regime also possesses the Rodong-1 missile, which has a range of 1,300 kilometers (810 miles) and is capable of reaching most parts of Japan.

In August 1998, Pyongyang stunned the world by test-firing its Daepodong-1 intermediate-range ballistic missile that soared over Japan's main island and into the Pacific Ocean. It has a range of up to 2,200 kilometers, but has yet to be deployed for a launch.

The North is also known to be developing a Daepodong-2 missile that can reach as far as Alaska with a maximum range of 6,000 kilometers, according to Defense Ministry data.

But the ministry did not disclose how many missiles the North has recently deployed and where they are located.

Analysts said the North's reinforcement of missiles, regardless of the credibility of the report, may help the United States accelerate its move to establish a missile defense system in Northeast Asia.

"Pyongyang sees their missile development as their sovereign rights, but it could also justify the United States and Japan's move to establish the missile-defense system, further irking China," Baek Seung-joo, a North Korea expert at the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses, told The Korea Herald.

South Korea's 650,000-member military is facing off 1.1 million-member North Korean army. About 37,000 U.S. troops remain in South Korea, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended in an armistice, but not a peace treaty.

North Korea and the United States have been locked in a standoff over the North's development of nuclear weapons.

The North recently accused Washington of preparing a preemptive attack against it when the United States announced it would withdraw its troops by October from the heavily fortified inter-Korean border.

The U.S. military in South Korea will deploy two more Patriot antimissile batteries and establish an air defense brigade in Korea this fall to effectively deter the North's missile attacks.

A first working group meeting will be held in Beijing May 12 under the six-nation talks that have been struggling to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue since the fall of 2002.

ⓒ Copyright 2002 Digital Korea Herald. All rights reserved

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