Jeffrey LewisNorth Korea Taepodong Test Preparations

The conservative Chosun Ilbo (South Korea) claims “North Korea has begun work on deploying intermediate range ballistic missiles (with ranges of 3,000-4,000km) it developed last year, building underground bases at two sites.”

“In particular, U.S. spy satellites have discovered about 10 of the newly designed IRBMs and mobile launchers at the two sites between last year and the beginning of this year… We presume these bases to be for a new kind of ballistic missile, not Rodong 1/’s or Scud/’s,” according to an anonomous “high-ranking” source in the South Korean government.

Another newspaper, the Joong Ang Daily, reported the story differently, noting that the activity was engine testing rather than deployment and that the missile was a 6,000 KM Taepodong II ICBM.

The context of Joong Ang Daily is also totally different, noting that the resumption of engine testing “comes almost a year and a half after an explosion at a missile testing complex in North Hamgyeong province severely damaged the facilities.”

That explosion, and the reconstruction, were well documented at the time. U.S. intelligence sources told the Kyodo News Service on August 8, 2003 that “North Korea has rebuilt a facility for testing its Taepodong-2 Taepo Dong-2 long-range ballistic missile …”

This report does not appear to deviate from the well-established pattern of periodic reporting concerning ongoing missile-related work at North Korean ballistic missile facilities, which frequently appear in the conservative press in the U.S. and South Korea.