North still making theater missiles

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North still making theater missiles


A satellite image from last November, right, shows a new building at the Kalgol-dong missile base in North Hwanghae Province, North Korea, that was not seen in the 2012 image, left. [DigitalGlobe, Inc./Jane's by IHS Markit]

North Korea continues to develop theater-range ballistic missiles that can target South Korea and Japan, an analysis of satellite imagery by IHS Markit showed on Tuesday.

A report by two North Korea weapons experts, Joseph Bermudez and Nathan Hunt, indicated that North Korea had constructed a new missile storage building at the Kalgol-dong missile base in the northern part of the country. The analysis is based on satellite images from Nov. 23 last year.

The new facility shows the North’s “increased emphasis upon realistic training and operational readiness,” the report said.

Theater-range ballistic missiles have a range of 190 to 2,200 miles, putting South Korea and Japan within target.

The new storage facility is a specialized building “with an arched clerestory roof” that is approximately 13 to 14 meters (42.6 to 45.9 feet) in height, tall enough to vertically store the North’s Hwasong-5 and 6 missiles, which each has a range of 300 kilometers (186 miles) and 1,000 kilometers, according to the report.

Such a tall roof would effectively allow North Korea to elevate Hwasong missiles on either a transporter erector launcher or mobile erector launcher “both for maintenance and training,” the report said. If the missiles can be raised from the ground, it can shorten the time required for a missile launch.

IHS Markit also noted that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un “instituted widespread changes” in the North Korean Army after assuming power in December 2011. Among his demands was “realistic training and increased operational readiness.”

“At the Kal-gol missile base, these changes were reflected by infrastructure development, the excavation of six standard transporter erector launcher (TEL) revetments for training, the construction of a second missile support area with a drive-through facility, and the construction of a specialised missile maintenance and training building,” the report said.

It also noted that the kind of structure at the base - with an arched clerestory roof - had not been observed at other missile bases in North Korea before.

The Kalgol-dong missile base, located 125 kilometers north of Seoul in North Hwanghae Province, is a forward missile operating base for the Hwasong-5 and 6, the report said.

“It appears that the North set up the Hwasong-5 and 6 missile base in the Hwanghae region, close to the inter-Korean border, as they are Scud-B and C type missiles with short range,” said Shin Bum-chul, director of the Division of North Korean Military Studies at the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses.

Changes implemented to the Kalgol-dong base since 2002 onward indicates it is “active and well maintained by North Korean standards,” the report said.

“The construction at Kal-gol indicates that the North Korean leadership continues to invest in its theatre-range missile capability,” the report added.

Based on its finding, the report concluded that North Korea had not suspended its missile program even as it is in on-again, off-again talks with the United States on its denuclearization.

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