North may have 200 missile launchers: Report

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North may have 200 missile launchers: Report


North Korea’s mobile missile launcher displayed during a military parade marking the 65th anniversary of the Workers’ Party in Pyongyang in October 2010. [Joongang Ilbo]

North Korea could have as many as 200 mobile missile launchers, twice the number of previous estimates by Seoul analysts, according to a recent report submitted to the U.S. Congress by the Pentagon.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel delivered a 20-page report titled, “Military and Security Development involving the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea 2012” to Congress earlier this month detailing North Korea’s strengthening of its nuclear and missile capabilities.

The report, considered the U.S. Department of Defense’s authoritative statement on North Korea’s current and future military capacity, stated that North Korea could have up to 200 transporter erector launchers and pose a threat to regional stability and U.S. national security.

This could include as many as 100 short-range missiles, including variants of Scud, which has a range of up to 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) and 120-kilometer range KN-02s, 50 medium-range Rodong ballistic missiles, which has a reported range of 1,300 kilometers, and 50 intermediate-range ballistic missiles.

Two Musudan intermediate-range missiles were deployed to the east coast of North Korea last month for apparent launch before being dismantled earlier this month.

The state-run research think tank Korea Institute for Defense Analyses analyzed the U.S. Congress report yesterday and indicated that Korean army officials and experts previously estimated around 94 mobile missile launchers.

South Korean defense authorities have estimated at most 40 Scud-B, Scud-C and Scud-ER, and at most 40 Rodong and 14 Musudan missiles.

The Congressional report further said that North Korea will continue using and improving the long-range Taepodong-2, which could reach the United States if developed as an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear payload.

“These advances in ballistic missile delivery systems, coupled with developments in nuclear technology, are in line with North Korea’s stated objectives to strike the U.S. homeland,” the report added.

The report further stated that North Korea’s ground forces have a total of 4,100 tanks, 2,100 armored vehicles and 8,500 field artillery, similar to previous South Korean defense authorities’ estimates. But the Pentagon report stated the North was in possession of 5,100 multiple rocket launchers, 300 more than South Korean experts’ estimates.

By Sarah Kim []
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