Pyongyang/Tehran Missile Testing: Yeeeaahhhh….Maybe Not

Before North Korea, on 4 March, said it was no longer bound to its 1999 missile launch moratorium, _Time Magazine_ “published a 20 February article”:,10987,1029824,00.html making an old charge: “Administration officials think it may be cheating [on the moratorium] by using Iran as its proxy.”

Reports that North Korea has been circumventing the testing moratorium through outsourcing to other countries have been circulating for a while now. A “Bush administration official” made the claim to a _Los Angeles Times_ reporter on 5 August, six days before Iran “tested its Shahab-3 missile.”:

So why did _Time_ say that Iran and N Korea “may be cooperating more closely than previously known”?

If the author could go ahead and tell us, that would be great. But the article only says:

bq. After Iran test-fired the Shahab-3 last summer, there have been indications, a top U.S. official says, that Tehran is giving North Korea telemetry and other data from its missile tests and that North Korea is using the data to make improvements in its own missile systems. In exchange, the official says, Pyongyang may be supplying Iran with engineering suggestions for further testing.

Strictly speaking, I suppose it could be true that there are “indications” of post-August-test cooperation. But that doesn’t mean these “indications” are different from previous “indications.” What is new here ?

_Time_ certainly implies that there is new evidence, but it’s hard to know because the article doesn’t say a damn thing about previous data-sharing reports. Methinks someone likely got spun.

I don’t know any authoritative sources discussing exactly how much flight test data-sharing could substitute for actual flight-testing. Moreover, a State Department official commented on the available evidence for such cooperation “18 August”:

bq. Asked about press leaks from U.S. officials that Iran is conducting flight tests for North Korea, the State Department official said that it is “always a possibility” but added that the United States does not have solid information that such cooperation is happening. It is not clear that North Korea “would depend on Iran for anything,” the official added.

The _Time_ article also contains this misleading section:

bq. [Under Secretary of State John Bolton] warned, Iran could soon have missiles capable of delivering payloads to Western Europe and the U.S. And if that isn’t scary enough, CIA director Porter Goss said in congressional testimony last week that North Korea’s new, untested Taepo Dong-2 missile “is capable of reaching the United States with a nuclear-weapon-sized payload.”
The implications of a North Korea-Iran deal to share and test these missiles are grim. Equally ominous, Goss said, intelligence shows that North Korea is seeking to raise hard currency by peddling its missile technology to new clients beyond Iran.

To me, this implies that Goss testified that Iran and North Korea are sharing flight testing data. But he didn’t mention it in either his prepared statement or the hearing Q&A.

It is, at the very least, poorly written.

Yeeeaahhhh, great.

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