North sets up midrange missile unit

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North sets up midrange missile unit

North Korea has established a new military division responsible for operating intermediate-range ballistic missiles, the South Korean government source said yesterday.

“We have confirmed that the new missile unit has been opened under the North’s Korean People’s Army General Staff,” said a government official who asked not to be named. “The division will be in charge of deploying and controlling the ballistic missiles strategically.

“From the fact that the North has set up a separate missile division, we believe it has revealed its intention to produce the missiles continuously,” likely with the aim of cutting off U.S. military reinforcements that could reach South Korea in case of emergency, the official said.

The official said the new missile bases are believed to be located some 80 kilometers (49 miles) east of Pyongyang and the northernmost North Hamgyong province. From there, the IRBMs are capable of reaching U.S. military bases in Japan, the U.S. base in Guam, and the U.S. Seventh Fleet based in Yokosuka, Japan, the official said.

Defense Ministry spokesman Won Tae-jae said yesterday during a press briefing that a 2008 Defense Ministry white paper had confirmed the development and deployment of the missiles, which have a range of more than 3,000 kilometers, but gave no other details.

According to the government official, the North has been developing intermediate-range missiles since the late 1990s. The new missiles were deployed for full operations in 2007.

A defense official in Seoul said the North is also continuing to develop improved models of the Scud and short-range KN-01/02 missiles.


By Lee Min-yong [smartpower@joongang.co.kr]

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