A senior North Korean military officer on Wednesday claimed his country possessed "powerful modern weapons" that could swiftly crush the United States, the Associated Press reported (see GSN, April 24).
"The Korean People's Army is armed with powerful modern weapons ... that can defeat the (U.S.) imperialists at a single blow," army General Staff chief Vice Marshal Ri Yong Ho said at a ceremonial meeting of armed forces and governing party officials that included ruler Kim Jong Un.
Still, the embarrassing failure earlier this month of North Korea's long-range Unha 3 rocket has been interpreted as a sign the aspiring nuclear power is not close to wielding a strategic weapon that can reach the mainland United States.
The North has pulled out its specialists and machinery from the missile launch site where the Unha 3 was fired, an apparent sign there will be no follow-up rocket firing in the near term, an unidentified South Korean government official told the JoongAng Ilbo newspaper.
The source said: "North Korea pulled out of the launch site to Pyongyang last week engineers and equipment that were involved in the rocket launch, except security guards," according to a Kyodo News summary.
"It's unlikely a second rocket launch will take place in the near future," he said (Kyodo News, April 25).
In addition to being a major embarrassment for North Korea, the breakup of the Unha 3 within minutes of takeoff might also hinder Iranian development of long-range ballistic missiles, United Press International reported on Tuesday.
Tehran in the past has relied on North Korean specialists and technology in its ballistic missile development program; about 12 Iranian missile specialist were reported on hand in the North to observe this month's rocket launch.
Were the rocket launch to have been successful, Iran could have hoped to advanced its long-range missile work by purchasing the North Korean technology.
A number of reports surfaced in November 2010 that Pyongyang had exported close to 20 sophisticated nuclear-capable BM-25 missiles to Tehran (see GSN, Nov. 29, 2010). The sale of the missiles has not been confirmed, though they are thought to have been transferred to Tehran in 2005, prior to implementation of the U.N. Security Council's 2006 and 2009 bans on weapons dealings with the North (United Press International, April 24).