Jeffrey LewisNorth Korean Missile Exports

So, I am thumbing through Richard Grimmett’s CRS report Conventional Arms Transfers to Developing Nations, 1998-2005 to find this phrase:

Other non-European suppliers [ahem, North Korea] … delivered [to Near East region during the 2002-2005 period] 40 surface-to-surface missiles, a weapons category not delivered by any of the other major weapons suppliers during this period to any region.

I was looking for it, after a friend forwarded me this story by Thom Shanker citing “Pentagon and other administration officials” to identify the “non-European” supplier as North Korea.

From the context of the report and Shanker’s reporting, I would imagine the 40 missiles are at least two sales by North Korea:

  • 15 Scub missiles sold to Yemen in 2002.
  • 18 SS-N-6 missiles sold to Iran in 2005.

Yeah, I know that’s only 33. Grimmet might be rounding up, or a third sale may have taken place. But, what had me excited, is Grimmet cites the “U.S. government” as the source confirming the arms transfers. I thought, perhaps, this was implicit, official confirmation the North Korea transferred the SS-N-6 to Iran—a story about which I am very skeptical (for one, I am not sure I believe North Korea has such a missile).

But, alas, the table contains this note:

Data relating to surface-to-surface and anti-ship missiles by foreign suppliers are estimates based on a variety of sources having a wide range of accuracy. As such, individual data entries in these two weapons delivery categories are not necessarily definitive.

So, still no confirmation.


  1. Haninah

    I’m a little confused – I did a little of The Google on the SS-N-6, and John Pike says (for what it’s worth) that he’s worried the Norks will try to mate their version of the SS-N-6 to the Taepo Dong X – while the Jane’s article you link to says the SS-N-6 is a precursor to the Taepo Dong X. Which is it, or is this all pointless pseudo-informed blathering about vaporware?

  2. Jeffrey Lewis

    I am calling it vaporware, for now.

    I may post more, later.

  3. Allen Thomson (History)

    I’ve been trying to follow the SS-N-6/BM-25 stories, and my vote currently is definitely for vaporware. Whether the vapor is emanating from something vaguely real is not completely clear, but I tend to doubt it.

  4. Pieter Wezeman

    The whole BM-25 story is strange. Iran buying 18 untested North Korean missiles? North Korea copying an old but still complicated Russian ballistic missile? But on the other hand why would it not be true? There is convincing evidence that Iran in a similar way bought 6 Kh-55 cruise missiles from corrupt Ukranian government officials. They seem to try to get their hands on a wide diversity of long range missiles. (whether that is delivery of WMD is still another questions) As with the Kh-55 there is of course no guanrantee that a BM-25 actually works…Of course, first see the things and only than believe it.Regarding exports of North Korean SSM’s, note that the quoted section from the Grimmett report came from a section discussing the export of naval weapons. (Other non-European suppliers collectively delivered 116minor surface combatants, as well as 40 surface-to-surface missiles…) Did Grimmett mean ballistic missiles or ship launched (cruise?) missles?If he referred to ballistic missiles it is not possible to determine what his figures are based on. There has been reporting about somewhat more than the BM-25s and 15 scud-b ’s for Yemen during 2002-2005.Syria may have received up to 25 Scud-D’s in this period and yemen may have received up to 45 Scud-C (15 in the intrecepted batch + 2 more batches). Less certain are reports about the delivery of 6 to 8 Rodongs to pakistan.