North Korea was reported to have unveiled three previously unseen ballistic missiles and launching apparatus during a major armed forces parade Sunday, according to the Associated Press (see GSN, March 17).
One new missile was believed to be a Musudan intermediate-range ballistic missile, which can travel 1,860 miles to 3,100 miles and could reach Guam and Japan, according to Japanese television channel NHK.
Missiles were prominently displayed at the parade with the words "Defeat the U.S. Military. U.S. soldiers are the Korean People's Army's enemy" written on them.
"If the U.S. imperialists and their followers infringe on our sovereignty and dignity even slightly, we will blow up the stronghold of their aggression with a merciless and righteous retaliatory strike by mobilizing all physical means, including self-defensive nuclear deterrent force," North Korean army General Staff chief Ri Yong Ho said at the parade.
South Korean defense and intelligence officials did not offer comments on the report (Jean Lee, Associated Press/Google News, Oct. 10).
The Musudan is not known to have yet been launched in a test flight, proliferation analyst Joshua Pollack said on the website Arms Control Wonk. He cited the weapon's flight range at roughly 1,550 miles to 1,860 miles. The missile is said to be based on the Soviet submarine-launched R-27, which is notably shorter in length than the Musudan.
The North Korean missile was initially unveiled in a 2007 armed forces parade; however, that event was closed to international media, the Chosun Ilbo reported. The South Korean newspaper reported the Musudan had a range of about 1,860 to 2,490 miles.
Evidently, some 12 Musudan missiles are fielded at missile installations in the North Hamgyong and South Pyongan provinces. The system can reportedly travel further than any other weapon in the North's arsenal, including the Rodong missile with an 810-mile range, the newspaper reported.
"We're looking at a new missile," Pollack stated. "The lack of a known testing record prior to deployment raises all sorts of questions. Was it tested in another country, for example?" (Joshua Pollack, Arms Control Wonk I, Oct. 10).
The outside world also saw for the first time Sunday a new version of the medium-range Nodong ballistic missile, which was outfitted with what appeared to be a "separating re-entry vehicle," Pollack noted.
"The question naturally arises: how long have the North Koreans had weapons of this type?" he wrote.
South Korean and U.S. news organizations initially began reporting on the Musudan missile in 2003, "so it's certainly possible for Pyongyang to sit on these developments for years, if they wish," he wrote.
The targeting precision of North Korean theater-range missiles such as the Nodong has been reported to have increased since July 2006 missile tests. The separating re-entry vehicle on the Nodong could explain some of that improved accuracy, Pollack stated.
Pollack indicated that details remain unclear regarding the third weapons system cited in the AP article (Joshua Pollack, Arms Control Wonk II, Oct. 10).