Monthly Archives: February 2009


Earlier, I quoted a 2006 article by Daniel Sneider on the “origins of North Korea’s SS-N-6 clone”:, the so-called “Musudan missile”:

Like “Nodong” and “Taepodong,” “Musudan” is the name of a village close to the “Musudan-ri launch site”:, lately also known as the “Tonghae Satellite Launching Ground”: The U.S. intelligence community seems to issue these geographic names after the first sighting of each missile in question.

Over at ACW, the knowledgeable Allen Thomson sounds “a skeptical note”:

I agree about the Nodong and Taepodong, but it’s not clear to me that the “Musudan” missile designation came out of the usual USIC naming process. Mostly because I’m still not convinced that the Musudan/BM-25/SS-N-6/R27 story isn’t a fable. Maybe the thing is real and maybe it, or its engine, were tested at Musudan-ri. But I’m not betting money on it.

I know what he means. There’s still no strong evidence to support the stories in the “NY Times”: or the German tabloid _Bild_ (headline: _Irans Raketen reichen bald bis Berlin!_) that placed 18 Russian-designed IRBMs from North Korea in Iran. (If the number 18 sounds familiar, that’s also how many KH-55 cruise missiles were reported smuggled from Ukraine to China and Iran.)

_Update: I’ve just remembered an “article from mid-2006”: in the_ Wall Street Journal _claiming that Musudan missiles reached Iran by sea in late 2005. Judge for yourself._

But the intelligence community clearly believes that the missile exists in North Korea. See page 10 of this “2006 NASIC report”:, titled “MRBM and IRBM Characteristics.” It includes the following info, listed right after the No Dong and the Taepo Dong I:

Missile: IRBM****
Country: North Korea
Number of Stages: 1
Propellant: Liquid
Deployment Mode: Mobile
Maximum Range (miles): 2,000+
Number of Launchers: Not yet deployed

****Missile has not yet been flight-tested.

That’s our Musudan.

Why the missile was still nameless in 2006 is anybody’s guess. In September 2003, Lee Chul-hee of _Joongang Ilbo_, a Seoul newspaper, reported a sighting _en plein air_:

North Korea has deployed new intermediate range ballistic missiles capable of reaching key U.S. military posts, South Korean intelligence sources said yesterday.

The sources said the new missiles appeared recently at an air force base near the capital of Pyeongyang.

North Korea is expected to unveil the weapons publicly at its 55th founding anniversary parade today.

The missiles are believed to be modified from Soviet-era weapons.

“The missiles were deployed at the Mirim Airdrome, probably to display them at the military parade,” said a South Korean military intelligence official on condition of anonymity. Five launch pads and about 10 missiles were detected at the air base, he said.

Intelligence officials in Japan, South Korea and the United States have inferred from the unique shape of the missile’s warhead – which resembles the top of a baby bottle – that the North’s version was developed based on the Soviet-designed, submarine-launched SS-N-6.

In the end, the missiles did not join the parade. But a nameless “U.S. official” told Sonni Efron of the _LA Times_:

“We’ve had hints of this for several years, but it’s only within the last year that we’ve been able to confirm that this did exist and it’s derived from Russian technology,” the official said, adding that the development “makes you wonder what else they might have been able to access” during that period.

Some guy named “Paul Kerr”: also wrote about this.

Since NASIC’s 2006 report said it was not “flight-tested,” and it’s not called “Mirim” or “Pyongyang” in the open-source reporting, I’m guessing that Allen’s speculation about an engine test at Musudan-ri is about right.

Having One’s Yellowcake and Eating It, Too

From the Russian Interfax news agency:

Tehran, 25 February: Iran has confirmed its interest in the international uranium enrichment centre in Angarsk, but insists on retaining its own uranium enrichment programme, Vice-President Gholamreza Aqazadeh has told Russian journalists.

“We have given an affirmative reply long ago,” he said, answering a question about Iran’s interest in participating in this project. “On condition that this cooperation will not create obstacles for us in achieving our aims,” he added.

Aqazadeh recalled that Iran has its own enrichment plant. “But this is not an impediment (for taking part in the international enrichment centre),” he said. He added that Iran has a large nuclear energy development programme.

Aqazadeh positively evaluated the progress in implementing the construction project of the first Iranian nuclear power plant Bushehr. “Everything now looks very effective,” he said, commenting on the results of visiting the construction site.

Speaking about possible projects with Russia, he said that in this “everything depends on the Russian side”. “Iran may be a good market for Russian industry,” Aqazadeh added.

He said that Russia and Iran plans to set up a joint venture to use the Bushehr nuclear plant after its launch, and “this is a great step for our further cooperation”.

Narrowing the Gulf

Al Kamen of the _Post_ has the breakdown on “Dennis Ross’s geographic area of responsibility”: — the Persian Gulf littoral states plus Yemen — and much else besides. “Read it here”:

For those of you keeping score at home, that’s Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Yemen. Alphabetically speaking.

You know, I enjoy a little harmless snark as much as anyone, but the students in “Robert Wood’s geography class”: are starting to get downright abusive. Just ’cause their industry is dying, whereas he’s standing up there with job security, doesn’t mean they have to be unpleasant.

I’ll spare you the video.

Batman Returns

In related news, Secretary Clinton has “rolled out”: Stephen Bosworth as the senior-most U.S. representative to North Korea and the Six-Party Talks. The human props you see flashing by there at the start are Sung Kim on the left and Chris Hill on the right.

Here’s one little indicator of just how peculiar the personnel selection process has been. Just a couple of weeks ago, when he was touring the region with a gaggle of other balding, sixty-something males — “the High Council of Morts”: — the wires and the South Korean press were full of reports that “Bosworth would be the envoy”: Everybody knew this, except, it seems, “Bosworth”:

I was there earlier this month as a member of a private delegation. At that point, I had no idea I was going to be returning so soon, nor indeed in this particular role.

That sound you hear? Anthony Zinni’s molars grinding.

And with that, it’s time to move on from these two mini-dramas. Somebody wake me when it’s “Rose Gottemoeller’s”: turn.

“Musical bonus”:

Update From The Pencil Factory

“Reuters reports”: that the IAEA’s Olli Heinonen has given a briefing to diplomats about al-Kibar’s Pencil Box — you know, the place in Syria where they found “traces of uranium and graphite”:

The briefing contained the following statement: “Eighty particles of uranium oxide is significant.”

So does “uranium oxide” mean that we are looking at “cross-contamination”: from U3O8 (i.e., yellowcake), UO3, or UO2 at another facility, as I’ve suggested, and not from “Magnox fuel”: located onsite, as James has suggested?

Unfortunately, it doesn’t give us much ability to distinguish between these two possibilities. As this “handy cheat sheet”: from Argonne National Laboratory explains, uranium metal (such as that found in Magnox fuel) “is subject to surface oxidation. It tarnishes in air, with the oxide film preventing further oxidation of massive metal at room temperature.”

Microscopic particles would presumably oxidize all the way through. In other words, whatever they might have been part of before the bombs hit the building, they’re now infinitesimal specks of rust.

At the same meeting in Vienna, the “NY Times reports”:, a Syrian diplomat stated that the replacement building is missile-related:

“He made a reference to a missile, one missile,” said a European diplomat, who spoke on the condition of anonymity under usual diplomatic protocol.

Thanks to my impeccable clandestine sources, I can now bring to you an exclusive ground-truth photograph recently taken near the site.


Northeast is Red

The South Korean press, reading the tea leaves, suggests that “reports of KJI’s presence in North Hamgyong Province”: mean a space launch is nigh.

That sound you hear is two or three dozen wonks sacrificing chickens to whichever deity promises to ensure the release of good footage.

If the title of this post puzzles you, “clarification is here”:

“Kwangmyongsong”:, or so I’ve read somewhere or other, means “bright star.”


I had it all wrong. All these “movie”: and “TV metaphors”: are way off. It’s music. Take it from “the lady herself”:

QUESTION: : Just a little bit more on the special representatives and envoy. So they take this portfolio, they do this. How do you view what you do then? I mean, I know we’re going to the Middle East, but do you come in when there’s progress, do you come in as – describe how you —

SECRETARY CLINTON: But Martha, I don’t think there is one-size-fits-all. I think that I’ve tried to hire the best people that I can get in the Department, and I’ve tried to recruit the best people that I could convince to take on some of these especially complex portfolios. They work for me and for the President. They report to me and to the President. And we’re in constant contact about what they’re doing, where they’re going, what options they see. So ultimately, I’m accountable because these are my choices and I have chosen to organize the work we face in this way.

But it’s going to be different depending upon the situation. And so I don’t think there’s any way to say, well, this is how it’s going to work because it’s more like jazz; you’ve got to improvise, you’ve got to have people who are both great individual and ensemble players.

You heard her: we’re making it up as we go along.

It’s the new candor, folks. Get used to it…


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Readers–if you are out there, then we’ve had our fun with Stephen (“Bruce Wayne”: Bosworth and his “baffling job description”:

In the interests of equal time, it’s now the turn of another “special” whose title seems more carefully negotiated than his duties. I speak, of course, of Dennis Ross, “Special Advisor for The Gulf and Southwest Asia”:

We go now to “Acting Department Spokesman”: and geography instructor Robert Wood. He gets off to a flying start:

QUESTION: Dennis Ross?

MR. WOOD: Yeah.

QUESTION: What is he in charge exactly of?

MR. WOOD: Well, Dennis is –

QUESTION: Is it Iran? And if it’s not Iran – if it’s Iran, why is it not written in the statement?

MR. WOOD: Well, let me just start off by saying, the Secretary is very happy that Dennis Ross agreed to serve as her special advisor for the Gulf and Southwest Asia. What Dennis is going to be charged with doing is trying to integrate policy development and implementation across a number of offices and officials in the State Department. And, you know, he is going to be providing the Secretary with strategic advice. He will be also trying to ensure that there’s a coherence in our policies and strategies across the region.

Let me be clear, he’s not an envoy. He will not be negotiating. He’ll be working on regional issues. He will not be – in terms of negotiating, will not be involved in the peace process. But again, he is going to be advising the Secretary on long-term strategic issues across the region.

QUESTION: Can you give us – well, what is the State Department’s definition geographically of Southwest Asia? What countries does that include?

MR. WOOD: Matt, I didn’t —

QUESTION: No, you guys named an envoy for Southwest Asia. I presume that you know what countries that includes.

MR. WOOD: Yes. Of course, we know. I just – I don’t have the list to run off – you know, right off the top of my head here. But obviously, that’s going to encompass – that region encompasses Iran. It will – you know, it’ll deal with —

QUESTION: Does it include Iraq?

MR. WOOD: Indeed, it does. He is going to be, again, as I said, providing her with advice – strategic advice, looking at the long term, the bigger picture and how we can make sure that our policies are coherent across the board in the region. And as I said, the Secretary is very pleased that Dennis has agreed to do this. He’s got years of experience in the region. And, you know, it’s a daunting task, but it’s one that she felt was necessary.

QUESTION: And so, does it include parts of the Middle East?

MR. WOOD: Yes.

QUESTION: It does? Does it include Syria, and it includes Israel and it includes Jordan?

MR. WOOD: Well, he’ll be looking at the entire region that will include, you know –

QUESTION: Where does that stop? I mean, you know, you have NEA which, you know, runs all the way to Morocco. So does it include –

MR. WOOD: Well, he’s going to be in touch with a number of officials who work on issues throughout this region.

QUESTION: Does it include Morocco, Algeria, Egypt, countries that are within the – within the Middle East or within the Near Eastern Affairs Bureau, but are not necessarily technically part of Southwest Asia?

MR. WOOD: He will be providing advice to the Secretary on a – across that entire region, where appropriate, where she needs it, and that’s the position he will serve.

QUESTION: So he’s going to meet with the leaders in the region as well, so you said he is going to offer an assessment —

MR. WOOD: That’s right. At some point, he will.

QUESTION: — including the Iranians?

MR. WOOD: Well, I’m not sure at this point. But again, our policy with regard to Iran is under review, so once that review is completed, we’ll be able to go forward vis-à-vis Iran. But until that time —

QUESTION: Well, was there a consideration at some point that you would have a special envoy for Iran? And why didn’t you now go in that direction?

MR. WOOD: Well, a decision was made by the Secretary that she needed broad strategic advice to look at a range of issues across the entire region that we just talked about. And it was felt that his skills could be better used to do that type of work, given the years of experience that he’s had dealing with the Middle East, other parts of the world. And so, again, as I said, Iran will be one of those countries that he will be, you know, looking at in his portfolio. But —

QUESTION: The military sometimes refer to parts of the -stans, Central Asia, as Southwest Asia. Are those included in your —

MR. WOOD: Well, look —

QUESTION: Can you find out? Because, I mean, this is —

MR. WOOD: We can get you that. Yeah, we can get you a breakdown of —

QUESTION: I mean, does this – is there a geographic limit to his portfolio, or is it really an issues-based thing so that he could be dealing with Morocco and Algeria —

MR. WOOD: Yeah.

QUESTION: — and Tunisia —

MR. WOOD: I would look at it, Matt, as more of a regional —

QUESTION: — and Kyrgyzstan, and the -stans that are not covered by Ambassador Holbrooke? And does it include Turkey? Does it – you know, there are a lot of unanswered questions from – from the statement last night as to exactly what he’s going to be doing. I mean, I presume it’s all of the Gulf – Saudi Arabia, that makes sense. But does it include Somalia, which is – you know, that there is – does it include – I don’t know —

QUESTION: Or is it (inaudible) Iran?

MR. WOOD: Your question is – you know, let me answer your —

QUESTION: It could be anything. Or is he limited by the geographic —

QUESTION: Or did you just not want to put Iran in the name, and so this is your clever way of doing that?

MR. WOOD: Can I speak now?


MR. WOOD: Thank you, and thank you. Look, it’s more – he’s going to be providing advice to the Secretary on a number of regional issues, and I would not try to limit Dennis’s advice to, you know, just those regions. He may have other – you know, he may have advice that he wants to give the Secretary on other issues. I don’t think we’re trying to narrow it here. If you’re looking for a geographical breakdown of those countries that he will be looking —

QUESTION: It would be nice to find out what the State Department considers to be Southwest Asia.

MR. WOOD: We can certainly do that for you.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: And why Iran was not mentioned in the statement? And why was it published at 9:00 p.m.?

MR. WOOD: Well, it was published at 9:00 p.m. because we – that was the time when we had it ready to go. And so there was no – somebody had said to me in an email or something that we were trying to hide something, and that’s absolutely not the case. That’s when it was ready to go, and that’s when we – the Secretary wanted that announcement to go out at some point yesterday, and it did.

QUESTION: Yeah, but when she —

MR. WOOD: We just couldn’t get it out until late.

QUESTION: When she wants to announce the nomination of Richard Holbrooke, the President comes for announcing that. So it’s not the same kind of announcement. It’s very different. Why?

MR. WOOD: It’s different because the duties are different here. He is serving as an advisor to the Secretary. And the reason why we didn’t mention Iran specifically is because his duties are going to engage the entire region, as I mentioned. So it’s not just Iran. It’s other countries in the region, other issues.

QUESTION: Robert, does he have a specific role in the Iran review? And when you talk about the Afghanistan review, you’ve got Holbrooke and Bruce Riedel and others. Is there a similar structure for the Iran review? And would he have a certain status in that review?

MR. WOOD: Well, he will certainly – the Secretary will certainly seek out his advice with regard to, you know, Iran. There’s no question about that. There’s not a similar structure in place, you know, for this type of review. You know, we don’t have a cookie – you know, what do you call it, a cookie-cutter approach to, you know, doing reviews. You involve the people who you think are necessary and can provide you with the appropriate expertise and advice, and that’s how you conduct them.

So, digested the above yet? What do you say? Does this make Ross the Tom Hagen of “Monsters, Inc.”:

Here’s the “video”: The fun starts with a jaunty two-hand gesture around 0:58.

Kwangmyongsong. Kwangmyongsong? Kwangmyongsong!

According to “KCNA”:

The preparations for launching experimental communications satellite Kwangmyongsong-2 by means of delivery rocket Unha-2 are now making brisk headway at Tonghae Satellite Launching Ground in Hwadae County, North Hamgyong Province.

“FCNL”:, call your office.


Not only did the IAEA find “anthropogenic natural uranium particles”: at the site of Syria’s apparent graphite-moderated reactor, “they found particles of graphite”:, according to Reuters and other outlets.

But perhaps it was a secret military pencil factory.

OK, OK, the jury’s still out. But anyone who said that it couldn’t be a graphite-moderated reactor because no graphite was found at the site will have to cross that one off their list.




This wasn’t planned.