North Korea’s Ballistic Missile Program: How We Got Here

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September 7, 2017
Shea Cotton, Dave Schmerler

The following is an excerpt from a September 7, 2017 article in Forbes.

In its quest to become nuclear, North Korea made its boldest move yet: It conducted its sixth — and most powerful — nuclear test on September 3, sending shockwaves throughout the world. The U.S. Geological Survey estimated it generated a 6.3 magnitude earthquake.

The United Nations Security Council held an emergency meeting the next day and called for more sanctions (particularly aimed at convincing North Korea’s biggest benefactor, China, to cut fuel exports to the country), while South Korea responded with live-fire military exercises.

In this photo provided by South Korea’s Defense Ministry, a Hyunmoo II ballistic missile is fired during an exercise at an undisclosed location in the country on Sept. 4, 2017. (South Korea Defense Ministry via AP)

There is speculation that Kim will test an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) later this month, timed to the anniversary of the country’s founding by his grandfather, Kim Il-sung.

For a country with limited resources (its estimated GDP last year was about $28.5 billion, less than that of the state of Vermont), how has North Korea’s ballistic missile program progressed so far?

How it all began

When relations with the Soviet Union deteriorated in the mid-1970s, North Korea began eyeing a ballistic missile program as a way to ensure its security. It wasn’t until the late ’70s and early ’80s that the country obtained an unknown number of short range Scud missiles from Egypt. These were reverse engineered and became the foundation of North Korea’s ballistic missile program.

Between July and September 1984, North Korea carried out six flight tests of its own versions of these missiles in remote Musudan-ri, located in the country’s northeast corner. Of these tests, experts believe half exploded on or shortly after launch.

Read the full article at Forbes

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