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Photos Reveal New Work at North Korean Missile Launch Site

Satellite images show that North Korea is significantly overhauling an older missile launch site, with the possible result being a capacity to fire missiles with greater flight distances, Agence France-Presse reported on Tuesday (see GSN, May 17).

The photographs of the Musudan-ri missile site in northeastern North Korea reveal the Stalinist regime has made "rapid progress" in the last 12 months and evidently has displaced an entire nearby town to create space for production of more sizable rockets, the website 38 North, which tracks the country's weapons development, concluded in a new analysis.

The North is thought to be pursuing rockets of greater size than the Unha 3 system that broke apart minutes after launch last month from another facility, or even ICBMs, said 38 North.

"The new construction is intended to support future launches of rockets larger than the recently tested Unha -- more capable liquid-fueled space launch vehicles or missiles with intercontinental ranges -- that will also overfly Japan, further aggravating regional tensions," according to 38 North, which is produced by the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University.

Recent photographs reveal features including groundwork for new structures and a white round-shaped building whose function is not yet apparent. The institute projected the new facilities would go online no later than 2017 (Shaun Tandon, Agence France-Presse/Google News, May 22).

The institute also noted the new Musudan-ri rocket assembly building "is somewhat similar to a recently completed horizontal assembly building at Iran's Semnan launch complex, also intended to handle a new large liquid-fueled rocket," the Yonhap News Agency reported (Yonhap News Agency I, May 22).

Meanwhile, U.S. officials were said to have traveled to North Korea in a last-ditch effort to convince the regime to abandon the April rocket launch, Kyodo News cited a website for the Korean Broadcast System as reporting (Kyodo News/Mainichi Daily News, May 18).

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland on Tuesday declined to discuss the veracity of reports of the secret April visit, Yonhap reported.

"I'm not commenting on it one way or the other," the spokeswoman said.

Joseph DeTrani, who heads the National Counterproliferation Center within the National Intelligence Director's Office, was the Obama official that traveled to North Korea, according to an anonymous diplomatic insider (Lee Chi-dong, Yonhap News Agency II, May 22).

Note to our Readers

GSN ceased publication on July 31, 2014. Its articles and daily issues will remain archived and available on NTI’s website.

NTI Analysis

  • 3D Missile Model Collection

    Dec. 3, 2014

    The James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies has created a series of 3D models of ballistic and cruise missiles for the Nuclear Threat Initiative.

  • North Korean Ballistic Missile Models

    July 30, 2014

    This page contains interactive 3D missile models for North Korea. Users can drag the model by pressing and holding their mouse’s scroll wheel. They can zoom in and out on the model by rolling their scroll wheel up and down, and can orbit the model by clicking and dragging their left mouse button.