February 03, 2010 08:06
The U.S. Defense Department considers North Korea's ballistic missile technology a greater danger than previously believed, a report Wednesday said.
The report predicts the North will have technology to develop intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the U.S. mainland over the Pacific and mounting nuclear warheads by 2020.
The department says it underestimated the North's capabilities when it test-fired a long-range missile in April last year and conducted its second nuclear test in May. Senior department officials were then saying that no country would buy technologies that had clearly failed the test.
But the new report says it is only a matter of time before the North successfully tests a long-range missile, adding that although it failed in what it then taunted as a satellite launch, many of the North's technologies for developing ICBMs are "successful."
The report claims the North is also developing medium and short-range missiles targeting South Korea and Japan, having already developed solid-propellant short-range ballistic missiles with improved performance. It is also developing mobile intermediate-range ballistic missiles, the report adds.
Solid-propellant short-range surface-to-ship KN-02 missiles with a range of 120 km are warfare-ready, it claims, and it deployed IRBMs with a range of more than 3,000km mounted on mobile launchers in 2007.
The report expresses "concerns" about North Korea building a cooperative system with Iran for missile development. Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Michèle Flournoy said, "It is important to note that U.S. homeland missile defense efforts are focused on regional actors such as North Korea and Iran."
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