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NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 246 (January 24, 2013)
*** TOPIC OF THE WEEK (Part 2)

North Korea Independently Builds Long-range Rocket: Analysis

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea is presumed to have the technological prowess to develop a 10,000 kilometer-range intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) without foreign help, an analysis of the debris from the North Korean rocket retrieved in South Korea's West Sea showed on Jan. 21.

   North Korea independently built most of the key parts of its long-range rocket launched last month, with the exception of some commercially available materials imported from overseas, experts who conducted the analysis said. The fact that North Korea is close to developing long-range missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons deepens security concerns on the Korean Peninsula and in other regions of the world.

   After analyzing the debris from the rocket's first stage retrieved from waters off South Korea's western port of Gunsan after the Dec. 12 launch, South Korean and foreign experts concluded that Pyongyang in fact tested an inter-continental ballistic missile capable of flying as far as 10,000 kilometers, further enhancing its missile capacity. More than 50 experts, including those from the United States, participated in the intensive analysis starting on Dec. 14.

   "Although North Korea was restricted from securing advanced technologies and materials due to the international sanctions, it has honed its long-range ballistic missile technology through several tests and experience," an intelligence official at Seoul's defense ministry said, asking for anonymity.

   The analysis revealed that Pyongyang had used four Rodong missile engines and four vernier engines for the first stage booster to produce 120-ton thrust.

   About 10 components, including wires, an electric censor and a power voltage converter were found to have been imported from five countries, including China and European nations, the report said, without disclosing all of their names, citing diplomatic issues.

   But there were no foreign materials that violated the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), a voluntary guideline shared by 34 countries aimed at limiting exports of delivery systems and related technology for ballistic missiles, it said.

   "Although there were no imported goods that violate the MTCR, the international community will have discussions about whether to add the imported materials to the list of controlled items," the official said.

   Seoul officials said there will be further investigations to figure out whether the five countries violated the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1874, a set of sanctions imposed on the North after its second nuclear test in 2009. The resolution bans weapons exports and financial transactions between U.N. members and North Korea.

   The South Korean government plans to submit the report to the U.N. and MTCR members through diplomatic channels, according to officials.

   The North's Unha-3 rocket is 30 meters long, including a 15-meter first stage, a 9.3-meter second stage, a 3.7-meter third stage, and a 2-meter satellite carrier on top. Together with a 48-ton oxidizer container, the rocket is estimated to weigh 91 tons, the report noted.

   The rocket itself was made of a mixture of aluminum and magnesium, AIMg6, and used kerosene, a combustible hydrocarbon liquid, as fuel, according to the report.

   The oxidizer container was made of several patch panels, which showed poor welding and uneven surfaces, an indication that North Korea seems to have no advanced technology in that area, the report said.
The outcome of the analysis is significant in that it provided a detailed look at the engines of the North Korean long-range rocket and exact technological level of North Korea's missile development to the outside world for the first time. The analysis was possible because the South Korean military retrieved the first-stage booster almost intact.

   The results of the analysis came shortly before the international community moved toward bringing new sanctions against the North for the December rocket launch. Pyongyang claims the December launch was aimed at placing an earth observation satellite in space, but many in the international community believe it was a disguised test of ballistic missile technology.

   The U.N. Security Council adopted a binding resolution against North Korea on Jan. 22 (Eastern Standard Time), condemning its December rocket launch and expanding sanctions, which invited strong repercussion from North Korea.
The 15-member council voted unanimously to approve the 20-point resolution which calls for freezing the assets of six more North Korean entities, including the Korean Committee for Space Technology and the Bank of East Land, and a travel ban on four additional officials.

   The council "demands that the DPRK not proceed with any further launches using ballistic missile technology," according to the resolution. DPRK is the acronym for North Korea's formal name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

   It also warned of "significant action" in the event of a future launch or nuclear test by North Korea.

   North Korea pledged on Jan. 23 to end any efforts at denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula, just hours after the U.N. Security Council adopted the resolution, according to North Korea's state-run news outlet.

   "There will be no more discussion over denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in the future although there will be talks for securing peace and security in the peninsula," according to a North Korean foreign ministry statement.

   The country will "take physical actions to strengthen self-defense military capabilities including nuclear deterrence," the foreign ministry statement said, which can be interpreted as a sign that Pyongyang may engage in another nuclear test that could trigger harsher actions by the international community. The communist country conducted underground nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009, with intelligence indicating it has made preparations to detonate another device.
North Korea started to develop missiles in 1976 with a Scud-B missile it obtained from Egypt and succeeded in the development of an ICBM-level rocket in 36 years.

   North Korea first produced a Scud-B type missile in 1984 and test-fired a Scud-C type missile with a range of 500 km in 1986. It has deployed the missiles and sold some to foreign countries since 1988.

   Based on the experiences of developing Scud missiles, North Korea developed the Rodong-1 missile with a range of 1,000 km, which could strike Japan, in 1990. North Korea surprised the world in August 1998 by test-firing the Taepodong-1 missile which went more than 1,600 km, flying past Japan.