New North Korean missile ready for export:
Russia helped with its guidance system
18 September 2003
North Korea has accelerated its Taepo Dong-2 program and now appears ready to export the advanced intermediate-range missiles to Middle East clients.
U.S. officials said Pyongyang obtained Russian expertise and technology to complete the Taepo Dong-2, a missile with a range of nearly 6,000 kilometers. The officials said the Russian expertise has improved the missile's guidance system.
North Korea has already begun producing the Taepo Dong-2. The most likely customer for the newly-designed missile is Iran, the officials said. Libya has also expressed interest.
"Iran wants the missile fast and is prepared to pay for it," a U.S. official said. "North Korea embarked on a crash program of the Taepo Dong-2 and with Russian aid has vastly improved this missile."
The first model of the Taepo Dong was based on the Scud missile. The Scud B, which North Korea acquired from Egypt in the early 1980s, has served as the basis for the extended Scud C, Scud D, No-Dong and Taepo Dong-1 missiles.
Much of the Taepo Dong has been redesigned with Russian help. The redesign was based on Russia's SS-N-6 or Serb, which is a submarine-launched liquid-fuel ballistic missile with a range of 3,200 kilometers. It was first deployed in 1969. The missile can carry a 1 metric ton warhead.
Russia refers to the missile as the R-27 and it has undergone several improvements. The R-27U, deployed in 1975, can carry single and multiple warheads. Moscow has asserted the missile's accuracy has increased by 15 percent over previous models.
Iranian interest in the Taepo Dong-2 has grown over the past few months following the U.S.-led war in Iraq and threats to destroy Teheran's nuclear program, believed to be developing nuclear weapons. Iran's Shihab-3 and Shihab-4, based on North Korean technology, have failed to reach full production stage because of a lack of engines.
Iran also wants North Korea to use its newly acquired guidance system technology to improve the accuracy of the Shihab-3 intermediate-range missile. In a June test, the Shihab-3 exceeded its projected range and flew 1,380 kilometers.
Pyongyang has also received China's help to improve its missiles. Officials said Chinese companies often use North Korean fronts to export missiles and nuclear components.
"Although China recently issued updated regulations on the export of chemical and biological agents, as well as missile-related export controls, full implementation and effective enforcement are still lacking," Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday. "We continue to see disturbing cases of proliferation activities by certain Chinese firms."
On Sept. 13, the United States led the first of 10 exercises in an effort to coordinate missions to seize suspected shipments of missiles and weapons of mass destruction from North Korea to Middle East clients. The two-day exercise, called Pacific Protector, tested the capabilities of 11 nations, led by Australia, to intercept and search vessels, aircraft and land vehicles suspected of transporting WMD-related cargoes.
"We think [it] will have a dramatic negative impact in international commerce that will, in turn, slow down the ability of potential proliferators to get the technology that they need," a senior U.S. official said.