Jeffrey LewisMore on New NORK Missile Facility

Yonhap has two excellent articles on the new missile and space launch facility near Tongchang-ri that was first publicly identified by Joseph Brmudez and Tim Brown:

  • Kim Kwi-ku’n: “What Is the Missile Base in North Korea’s Tongch’ang-ri for? — ‘Likelihood of Launching Artificial Satellites — Relation to Nuclear Weapons Delivery Means’” Yonhap, September 14, 2008.
  • “N. Korea Developing Long Range Missile Thrusters At New Launch Site: Sources,” Yonhap, September 16, 2008

The full text of both is in the comments. The second story is interesting because sources say the North Koreans conducted engine testing at the facility in May or June.

The Post has already picked up the Yonhap story in an article by Blaine Harden entitled “Report: N. Korea Tests Missile Engine Mechanism.”

Harden says that “Chosun Ilbo reported that a U.S. reconnaissance satellite earlier this year detected a test at the launch site of a long-range missile — presumably an updated version of the Taepodong-2.”

From what I can see, the story is from Yonhap, which was reprinted in the Chosun Ilbo. Comments?


  1. Jeffrey Lewis (History)

    ROK Military Intelligence ‘Closely’ Following DPRK Missile Thruster Testing Site

    Yonhap: “N. Korea Developing Long Range Missile Thrusters At New Launch Site: Sources”


    Tuesday, September 16, 2008 T03:12:34Z

    SEOUL, Sept. 16 (Yonhap) — North Korea appears to be testing a new thruster for its long-range missiles which, if developed, will have an expected range of nearly 7,000 kilometers, sources here said Tuesday.

    The communist nation’s Taepodong missile, currently with an estimated range of 6,000 kilometers, is already capable of hitting Alaska. An additional 1,000 kilometers could enable the long-range missile to reach most of the western coast of the U.S. Adding more urgency to what could potentially become a major dispute between North Korea and the United States is the fact that the missile thruster is apparently being developed at a new launch site located on the North’s western coast. That means a missile launched from there would be capable of flying over the Atlantic Ocean, reducing the possibility of it being intercepted by the U.S. missile defense system deployed in the Pacific.

    North Korea recently set off a tied-down missile thruster at its new launch site in Dongchang-ri, North Pyongyang Province, in what appeared to be a test of the new thruster’s performance, according to sources.

    “We believe they tested a rocket thruster at the new site in May or June,” a source said, adding analysis of satellite images had suggested the thruster could be for a long-range missile.

    Officials at the Defense Ministry refused to confirm or deny the report, but said military intelligence has closely followed all activities at the new missile launch site.

    North Korea adopted a self-imposed moratorium on long-range missile tests in 1999, but test-fired a Taepodong-2 missile in July 2006, along with six other short and medium-range missiles.

    Pyongyang has also begun rehabilitating its nuclear facilities, reversing its yearlong work under a six-nation accord to disable them.

  2. Jeffrey Lewis (History)

    ROK Daily: DPRK Allegedly Conducts ‘Engine Ignition Test’ for Long-Range Missile
    Original headline: “N.Korea Tests Missile Ignition”

    Chosun Ilbo WWW-Text

    Tuesday, September 16, 2008 T02:20:32Z

    North Korea has reportedly conducted an engine ignition test for a long-range missile, presumably the Taepodong-2 (Taepo Dong) missile with a range of 6,700 km, at a new long-range missile test site under construction in Dongchang-li, North Pyongan Province. For the test, the rocket engine of a missile is laid out horizontally at the test site and ignited to test its performance.

    The test confirms that part of the Dongchang-li test site, which is expected to be completed by 2009, is already operational, and that North Korea has been continuing development of long-range missiles.

    The engine is presumably for a Taepodong-2 missile, whose test firing failed in July 2006, or an improved version with a range of longer than 10,000 km. A government source said after the failed test in 2006, North Korea has intermittently conducted engine ignition tests and continued development of long-range missiles.

    The Dongchang-li test site is said to be much larger and better than the one in Musudan-ni. Its existence was first reported in the foreign press last Thursday.

    At a session of the National Assembly Defense Committee on Thursday, Defense Minister Lee Sang-hee (Yi Sang-hu’i) said construction is 80 percent complete.

  3. Jeffrey Lewis (History)

    Kim Kwi-ku’n: “What Is the Missile Base in North Korea’s Tongch’ang-ri for? — ‘Likelihood of Launching Artificial Satellites — Relation to Nuclear Weapons Delivery Means’”
    Yonhap (Internet Version-WWW)
    Sunday, September 14, 2008 T13:22:55Z

    In the wake of the revelation of the fact that North Korea has been building another long-distance missile launching base in Tongch’ang-ri, Ch’o‘lsan County, North P’yo’ngan Province, since seven to eight years ago, all eyes are now on the motive for and the purpose of building the base.

    The size of this missile base — which is near the west coast — is reportedly larger than the long-distance missile base located in Hwadae County, North Hamgyo’ng Province, and approximately 80% of the construction has been completed at present. The (South Korean) military authorities presume that the construction will be completed around summer next year, if the construction proceeds at the current pace.

    At the National Assembly National Defense Committee meeting held behind the closed door on 11 September regarding the base, Defense Minister Lee Sang Hee (Yi Sang-hu’i) reportedly made a brief report, saying, “At present, 80% of the construction has been completed, and we are keeping a sharp eye on it.” This served as the confirmation of the construction of a new missile base that had been laid bare through foreign news reports.

    The military authorities are paying attention to the motive for and purpose of building another long-distance missile base on the west coast, when a long-distance missile-launching base is already in operation in Musudan-ri, Hwadae County, which is adjacent to the east coast.

    According to what has been made known so far, a tower of 10-story height — which can accommodate ballistic missiles and rockets — has been erected at the base, and rocket engine testing facilities have also been built there. In particular, judging from the facilities built at the base and the size of the construction identified through satellite photos, the military authorities believe that it is possible to launch artificial satellites there.

    Regarding the motive for the construction of the base, the Ministry of National Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff are keeping their mouths tightly sealed. However, military experts believe that North Korea must have needed a multi-purpose base where long-distance missiles and artificial satellites can be launched.

    In particular, they also analyze that North Korea, while showing its missile force through the construction of a large-size missile launching base, might want to manifest to the United States its intention to establish nuclear weapons delivery capabilities.

    “The North Korea’s capability to make nuclear bombs has been proved through the nuclear test, but whether it has delivery technology or not is still a subject of controversies,” an expert at the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses (KIDA) said and added, “The base appears to be closely linked to nuclear weapons delivery means and capabilities.”

    He maintained, “Also noticeable is an intention aimed at applying pressure on the United States through the construction of a large missile base where artificial satellites can be launched.”

    In fact, on 31 August, on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the launch of Taepo Dong-1 that they claimed to be the launch of an artificial satellite, Pyongyang Pyongyang Broadcasting Station in Korean, which targets outside maintained, “Our country is at such a level that it can successfully launch an intended applications satellite at any time, if it desires to do so.”

    In the meantime, a (South Korean) military official said, “In various ways we are analyzing the North Korea’s motive for building a long-distance missile base in an area close to the west coast,” and added, “Judging from the fact that the base is being built on the west coast, it can pose a threat to the South side.”

    In fact, North Korea currently has missile bases in approximately 20 locations, and the Scud and No Dong missiles deployed at these bases all have the entirety of South Korea within their ranges.

    Regarding the North Korea’s construction of a missile base on the west coast, saying, “It is also necessary to consider the geopolitical aspect that (North Korean) missile bases have to be built in the locations away from South Korea,” another KIDA expert added, “For this reason, many of the major military bases of North Korea have been built in the regions adjacent to China.”

    Saying, “All the missiles deployed at the approximately 20 missile bases of North Korea have South Korean regions within their ranges,” he added, “When the facilities that are under construction there are comprehensively analyzed in the future, what the base is for will be made known for sure.”

  4. SJP

    Quick note: The WaPo seems to be emphasizing that the components tested are for an improved Taepodong-2 (with a range of 6,200 miles), whereas Yonhap emphasizes that the tests were likely for a standard Taepodong-2 (6,000 to 6,700 km), downplaying the likelihood of a current variant that can reach the American Pacific coast (the 10,000 km improved Taepodong-2).

    An additional query: by my shoddy math, 7,000 km, from western DPRK, would not reach the American Pacific coast. A tad hyperbolic?

    Is the same missile being referred to in all cases? (Seems there are at least three: the standard Taepodong-2 (with reputable estimates ranging from 4,000 km to 5,500 km depending on payload), Mod I (7,000 km?) and Mod II (10,000 km))

  5. Allen Thomson

    I would be, for the moment, very, very cautious about drawing conclusions about the South Korean reports about NK engine tests. Even if the reports are more or less true, they apparently are based on leaks of US infrared satellite data, which are themselves subject to interpretation.

    Time to step back, take a breath, figure out what is actually known, and go on from there.

  6. peter (History)

    @ SJP: It seems that references to North Korea being capable of directly threatening US soil are almost always referring to islands in the outer Aleutians, like Attu Island.

  7. Stew (History)

    peter: Not Alaska, that is where Sarah Palin resides!!!

  8. Will (History)

    Isn’t the fact that this wasn’t announced by the DPRK a sign that the test was at least partially unsuccessful? That is- there is propaganda value in announcing a successful test of an improved engine… wouldn’t the fact that this is coming out in ROK/US news sources indicate a less than successful test? What evidence is there that this was any more successful than the failed 2006 ICBM test?

  9. Josh


    Could be mistaken, but I don’t believe the North Koreans have ever publicized static tests of rocket engines.

    Also, failure of more ambitious undertakings has not deterred them from proclaiming success.