Sunday, July 02, 2006

North Korea Expected To Launch Some Missile This Summer

Captain's Quarters reports the contents of a Jane's Defense Weekly article on the North Korean missile crisis (JDW is subscriber only).

JDW reminds us that intelligence does not clearly indicate what exactly is on the launch pad at Musudan-ri, on the east coast of North Korea. The consensus is that the missile is a Taepodong-2 long range ballistic missile. The North Koreans claim it is a satellite launch vehicle. In either case, what the North Korean scientists might learn is the same.

The Captain also notes that not only is intelligence unclear as to what is on the launch pad, it is unclear if whatever it is has actually been fueled. This is because satellite photos showed fuel trucks at the launch pad, but it could not be determined from those photos whether these trucks actually fueled the missile. JDW helpfully clarifies an issue in this regard. The sense that a launch was imminent stemmed from the belief that once fueled the missile would have to be launched within hours. In fact, the missile can remain idle for weeks after it is fueled.

The most recent diplomatic maneuver comes from China, who has suggested informal six-party talks as a compromise between the North Korean and American positions. The China Daily writes, "China, which chairs the six-party talks, has apparently judged that an early resumption of the multilateral talks, stalled since last November, is necessary amid signs Pyongyang is preparing to launch a Taepodong-2 long-range ballistic missile, the newspaper quoted the source as saying." That the Chinese are so maneuvering may verify a supposition from Gordon Chang, author of Nuclear Showdown : North Korea Takes On the World, who said in an interview that the entire affair may be the machinations of the Chinese, who hope to step in and play peacemaker and thus establish themselves as primary the regional power.

JDW fully expects a missile launch. According to Captain's Quarters, JDW writes, "...Kim has not yet won a political victory, and until he gets one, that missile will likely fly this summer." Though it does not effect JDW's prediction, it should be recalled that North Korea may be seeking something more than a political victory over the U.S. As I summarized in an earlier post, the launch may be mere advertising for the North's missile program, and Gordon Chang suggests in the interview linked above that the launch may be for internal political purposes.

The launch itself, should it happen, will prove to be very costly to North Korean population. From Korea Liberator, a report on the effect sanctions might have on the North. Should a launch occur, sanctions by Japan and South Korea are all but guaranteed.

Here's the weather report for a city near the launch site. The forecast is for clear skies tomorrow but cloudy skies the rest of the week. The missile will only be launched under clear skies and during the daytime.

NOTE: The photo above comes from the China Daily article linked above; that news source credits

NOTE 2: The original photo used in this post has been replaced by a photo directly from At that site, the photo can be found in this article: Musudan-ri Missile Test Facility.

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