SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea has been working closely with Iran to develop its long-range ballistic missiles, possibly using Chinese technology, and is building large bases to prepare for their deployment, a South Korean state-run think tank said.
Communist North Korea is also building new sites near the Demilitarized Zone border for short-range missiles and is deploying missiles with improved precision that can strike most of Japan, the Institute of Foreign Affairs and National Security (IFANS) said in a report.
“The development of Taepodong-2 is conducted jointly with Iran, and it is possible China’s technology is used in the development of the Taepodong-2 engine,” said the IFANS report, which Reuters obtained on Thursday.
The collaboration is part of an international network, including Pakistan, that made it possible for the impoverished North to develop and deploy missiles despite scarce resources and limited testing, the study said.
North Korea fired seven missiles on July 5, including the long-range Taepodong-2, which U.S. officials said failed seconds into its flight and fell into waters between Japan and the Korean peninsula.
Christopher Hill, the top U.S. envoy to talks on the North’s nuclear program, said last month one or more Iranians watched the North’s missile launch, deepening concerns about the ties between two countries with troubling nuclear capabilities.
The Taepodong-2 is the product of joint efforts with Tehran, coinciding with Iran’s development of the Shehab-5 and 6, and “it is highly possible that design and technology from China, which has an arms trade with Iran, were used”, the report said.
The North is building a missile command base 50 km (30 miles) north of the Demilitarized Zone for as many as 30 mobile launch pads for the short-range Scud-type Hwasong missiles that can hit military and industrial targets deep in the South, IFANS said.
“With the deployment of Rodong and SSN-6 missiles and the pursuit to deploy the Taepodong-2, the North is pushing ahead with the construction of new sites and silos” on the east coast and on the border with China, the IFANS report said.