North Korea Testing a TD-2?
The South Koreans are reporting that North Korea is assembling a Taep’o-dong-2 missile for testing some time around the end of the month:
SEOUL (Reuters) — North Korea has been assembling its longest-range missile at an east coast launch base and could test-fire the rocket by the end of this month at the earliest, a leading South Korean daily reported on Friday.
South Korean and U.S. officials have warned prickly North Korea not to launch its Taepodong-2 missile, which is supposed to eventually be able to hit Alaska but has never successfully flown. It blew apart seconds after it was last tested in 2006.
North Korea recently transported the first and second stage of the Taepodong-2 to its missile base on a special train and has been assembling the pieces at an indoor facility to prevent spy satellites from watching, the Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported intelligence sources as saying.
“We assume that they are currently assembling the first and second-stage rockets,” the paper, which is South Korea’s largest, reported a South Korean government official as saying.
The Taep’o-dong-2 has a theoretical range of from 3,750 to 15,000 km, enough for it to strike Honolulu or Alaska, but not enough to strike the U. S. mainland with an appreciable load. The throw weight of the missile is believed to be from 250 kg to 1,100 kg, depending on range. It is not known whether the North Koreans have the ability to construct a nuclear device small enough to fit on the missile although most authorities seem to believe they do not.
Testing a TD-2 seems to me like a very expensive exercise for a country as strapped as North Korea. Perhaps they’re just pursuing status but I think there’s a more practical reason for the test.
I don’t believe that we’re the target audience for this test. At its best the TD-2 is unlikely to constitute a threat to the United States. I don’t believe that the Japanese are the target audience, either. The North Koreans have a substantial inventory, probably hundreds, of cheaper, simpler missiles capable of striking Japan.
I think this is a demonstration for the Iranians. There’s an intimate relationship between the North Korean missile program and the Iranian missile program. Here Global Security chronicles the interrelationship of the North Koreans and the Iranians in the development of the TD-2. The missile the Iranians used to launch a research satellite ten days ago is believed to be a home-developed TD-2 with a solid fuel third stage strapped to the top.
BTW, the distance from Tehran to Paris is 4,223 km.