LONDON ø 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
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.