Saturday, May 16, 2009

DPRK's Taepodong 2 test a success

Immediately after North Korea's trial launch last month discussions started whether the launch was successful or not. According to a Japanese Defense Ministry report released on Friday, the trial demonstrated an improvement in the country's long-range missile capability in the years since Pyongyang’s last test. The report predicts that the DPRK would probably be able to continue increasing the reach of its missiles, which should grow more accurate and capable of delivering heavier payloads. The Asahi Shimbun reported that the ballistic missile launch in April was likely aided by materials and technology from third countries.

Prior to the April-test the question came up whether Japan or the United States might (try to) shoot down the Taepodong 2 missile. This did not happen. But U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates revealed yesterday for the first time that the United States has 30 ground-based interceptors specifically focused on defending against missile launches from North Korea. Earlier plans to increase the number of interceptors to 44 were at least temporarily shelved because there is – according to Gates – no immediate need. Evil to him who evil thinks, it is certainly a pure coincidence that this information was publicized on the very same day on which Gates explained plans to cut the budget for a missile shield system.

Even in light of the recent test, some experts do not consider Pyongyang to be the main threat. David Kay, former chief nuclear weapons inspector with the International Atomic Energy Agency said that the main threat is "the transfer of that technology to others, particularly the Iranians. North Korea has sold and traded every weapon it's ever been able to produce with others. It's the main supplier to the Iranians of missile technology. And the Iranians are quite capable of improving, with foreign assistance, whatever they get from North Korea, they've shown that they can do this. So you do worry about their missiles being improved by the Iranians."

Update: Geoffrey over at the Arms Control Wonk published some ideas 'Why did the 2006 launch fail'

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