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Fears Over North Korean Ballistic Missile Capability

YOWUSA.COM, 01-September-00
Jamie Stensrud

North Koren Taepodong Type IConcern over North Korea's nuclear technology and missile program has been rising over the past few years, and reached a new height last month when President Kim Jong Il surprised the world by offering to suspend development of his ballistic missile program in exchange for other nations giving North Korea rocket technology and booster rockets "for peaceful space research." Given that North Korea has already sold missiles to Iran and Syria, why bother?

The position, announced by the Washington Post on 29 July and proposed by Kim to Russian President Vladimir Putin, was immediately met with skepticism by US officials, as was Kim's second proposal that the United States pay North Korea the sum of one billion US dollars to compensate the impoverished nation for the political and economic losses to be incurred in the process.

But, is North Korea really attempting to stall for time in an effort to bring its missile program to full intercontinental fruition? Given the chronic stalemate existing between the UN and another renegade nuclear state, Iraq, this is a possibility that should not be ignored.

Entry Into The Nuclear Club

North Korea's entry into the Nuclear Club - the elite gang of countries which pFlag of North Koreaossess nuclear ability and advanced missile technology - is imminent.  Currently the east-Asian nation is believed to be able to target both Hawaii and Alaska, and to have the ability to reach continental North America within the next 5 years. In a recent report by Britain's Center for Defense and International Security Studies:

"We expect [North Korea's] Taepo Dong 2 [ICBM] will be flight tested this year, unless delayed for political reasons.  A two-stage Taepo Dong-2 could deliver a several-hundred kilogram payload to Alaska and Hawaii, and a lighter payload to the western half of the United States. A three-stage Taepo Dong-2 could deliver a several-hundred kilogram payload anywhere in the United States."

Given that Korea has now sold missiles to Syria and Iran, the Eastern and Western coasts of America are now within nuclear striking distance from both sides!

Missile Threat, North Korea, Syria and Iran

Indeed, North Korea is one of the main reasons the US is considering the implementation of a missile defense shield over both North America and east Asian nations such as Taiwan.

Proponents of the shield point out the rising threat of rogue nations such as Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, and North Korea obtaining an intercontinental reach with nuclear warheads, while detractors of the project, namely China, argue against it. 

In a statement at the recent Association of Southeast Asian Nations' Regional Forum in Bangkok, Thailand, Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan claimed the missile shield went "against the tide of our times" and would upset the global balance of power.

A New Global Arms Race?

If Pyongyang continues to evolves its ballistic missile program to the intercontinental level, a new global nuclear arms race - already smoldering over the past several years as other nations develop their nuclear ability - could be accelerated. 

The prospect of militant nations possessing the ability to wreak nuclear havoc at will is obviously not appealing to western governments who are attempting to integrate themselves into a global whole.  Ironically, development of the proposed missile defense grid could itself also trigger a new arms buildup, as anti-West nations would be at a massive strategic disadvantage in the event of conflict breaking out.