N. Korea puts long-range missile on the market

Wednesday, May 5, 2004

LONDON North Korea has begun offering its Taepo Dong-2 long-range missile for sale to several nations in the Middle East.

Western intelligence sources said the most likely client to purchase the Taepong-2 is Iran. The sources said Teheran has been negotiating with Pyongyang for the purchase of the Taepo Dong-2 for Iran's first intercontinental ballistic missile as well as a space launcher.

On Tuesday, the South Korean daily Chosun Ilbo reported that North Korea was constructing two underground bases for the Taepo Dong-2. Quoting a South Korean intelligence official, the newspaper said Pyongyang has completed 80 percent of the work on the bases in a development that signaled the imminent deployment of the Taepo Dong-2.

The main source of North Korea's hard currency has been missile sales, primarily to the Middle East. Pyongyang's leading clients have been identified as Egypt, Iran, Libya, Pakistan, Syria and Yemen, Middle East Newsline reported.

The Taepo Dong-2 is estimated to have a range of more than 4,000 kilometers. U.S. officials said the missile's range could be extended to 6,500 kilometers, which would enable any Taepo Dong-2 fired by North Korea to land in the United States.

"Iran wants an ICBM and China and North Korea are already helping in the development of engines," a senior intelligence source said. "North Korea could eventually reach a deal to sell the Taepo Dong-2 to Iran."

The sources said that in 2003 North Korea discussed the Taepo Dong-2 with Libya and Syria. But they said neither country pursued the issue.

The sources said Iran was also considering the Taepo Dong-2 as the basis for Iran's Shihab-5 missile program. The Shihab-5 was meant to have a range of 5,500 kilometers. The sources said Iran has been completing development of an extended-range Shihab-3 missile, also termed Shihab-4, with a range of about 2,000 kilometers.

"U.S. intelligence satellites have spotted about 10 new ballistic missiles and mobile launching pads kept at the two places," the South Korean intelligence official was quoted as saying.

The intelligence sources said North Korea was developing a long-range Taepo Dong with a range of 6,000 kilometers. In 1998, North Korea launched the Taepo Dong-1 missile with an estimated range of more than 2,000 kilometers.

The Western intelligence sources said the United States has tried to stop North Korean missile and weapons of mass destruction exports through the Proliferation Security Initiative. But the sources said the multi-national PSI has not affected North Korean air transports of missiles to Middle East clients.

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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