I assume that the U.S., South Korea, and Japan all have a pretty good idea of what kind of missiles North Korea is shooting into the Sea of Japan at any given time, what with all the radars and imaging systems available to them and the information shared between the U.S. and each of its treaty allies. So we can probably trust the claims in the South Korean press about the “types of theater ballistic missiles fired on July 4”:http://www.totalwonkerr.net/2065/fireworks-rundown.
That raises the question in the title of this post. Why is North Korea test-firing more or less the same batch of missiles that it did three years ago? Why not flight-test the “SS-N-6 clone”:http://www.totalwonkerr.net/1884/irbm for the first time?
It’s certainly curious. David Wright and Ted Postol see the “second stage of recently flown Iranian and North Korean SLVs”:http://www.thebulletin.org/web-edition/features/post-launch-examination-of-the-unha-2 as derived from the SS-N-6. If that’s correct, why hasn’t it been flight-tested separately?
The allies just don’t have their story straight on this one:
* The “2009 edition of NASIC’s glossy missile threat report”:http://www.fas.org/irp/threat/missile/naic/NASIC2009.pdf states that “North Korea has an IRBM in development.”
* On “March 19 of this year”:http://www.senate.gov/~armed_services/statemnt/2009/March/Sharp%2003-19-09.pdf, General Walter Sharp, the commander of U.S. Forces in Korea (USFK), went further, telling the Senate Armed Services Committee that “North Korea is now fielding a new intermediate range ballistic missile capable of striking Okinawa, Guam and Alaska.”
* In February, according to _Chosun Ilbo,_ the newly released South Korean Defense White paper stated outright that the new IRBMs had been “deployed in 2007”:http://english.chosun.com/site/data/html_dir/2009/02/24/2009022461001.html.
(As of this writing, the website of the “South Korean Ministry of National Defense”:http://www.mnd.go.kr/mndweb/mnden/mndenindex.htm is down. Must be those pesky DDOS attacks.)
Perhaps it’s a matter of interpretation, and some analysts are waiting for a flight test before calling the missile deployed. If so, they must have been disappointed on July 4.
*Update.* X-posted, with cosmetic adjustments, to “ACW”:http://www.armscontrolwonk.com/2389/where-is-north-koreas-irbm.