Archive for the ‘Military’ Category

The December 7 Factory: Producer of maxi pads and naval stealth technology

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

This is my first article with Joseph Bermudez. The subject–the December 7 Facotry aka Korean People’s Army Unit 1501.

The detective work used in this article was a lot of fun.

You can read it here on 38 North.

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KPA Journal Vol. 2, No. 12

Monday, January 20th, 2014

The latest issue of KPA journal came out a few days ago. You can download it here.

Topics include:

  • KPN 30mm CIWS
  • KPA Lessons Learned From Foreign Conflicts (III)
  • Spaced Armor Screening for KPA Tanks
  • KPA Antennas (II)
  • KPN Training Aids
  • Organization of the KPA Tank Battalion
  • Editor’s Notes and Endnotes

A comprehensive index of all articles published in KPA Journal is available here.

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DPRK joins international satellite organization

Monday, December 2nd, 2013

According to Yonhap:

North Korea joined the International Mobile Satellite Organization (IMSO) convention last month as part of an ongoing effort contribute to the development of maritime transportation and safety, state media said Monday.

The Korean Central News Agency, citing the chief delegate to the general assembly of the International Maritime Organization said Pyongyang officially joined the convention on Oct. 15.

The delegate who attended the London meeting said Pyongyang will take steps to improve friendly relations with other members of the organization. The North’s news wire service did not disclose the name of the official.

The IMSO is an international body that uses satellites to regulate the movement of ships and maritime communication. South Korea’s telecom giant KT joined in 1985.

As part of its contribution, the North plans to set up and operate 25 very high frequency wireless stations along its eastern and western coasts starting next year, and actively pursue projects that can better preserve the maritime environment.

North Korean watchers, meanwhile, speculated that the North’s joining of the convention is part of an ongoing effort to mend fences and improve its image within the international community.

Read the full story here:
N. Korea joins int’l satellite organization
Yonhap
2013-12-2

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DPRK debt

Wednesday, May 8th, 2013

The Impossible State: North Korea, Past and Future, Victor Cha, 2012, p116-118.

The third bad decision took place in the 1970s. It related to foreign debt. The DPRK continued the same trends of previous decade as economic resources were diverted to the military. Despite having half the population, North Korean military spending exceeded that of the South every year from 1968 to 1979. The buildup of this decade included increasing the size of the armed forces from 485,000 to 680,000, which was twice that of the ROK. By 1980, troop number stood at 720,000 and continued to swell, with the majority deployed along the thirty-eighth parallel with their sights set on the South. Special forces grew from 15,000(1970) to 41,000(1978)The military began Scud missile development, boosted its submarine and surface flee, and the air force grew to over 200 attack plane. The army added 2,500 armed personnel carriers, about 1,000 heavy tanks, and 6,000 or so artillery tubes and rocket launchers. Military doctrine was revamped to increase the speed, power, and lethality of attacks in combat, focusing on rapid advance advance and infiltration tactics. In spite of its relatively limited technological base, by 1992 the North had twice the number of tanks and artillery that U.S-ROK defenses had in the South.

Academic Lee Hy-Sang, who has written one of the best scholarly treatment of the North Korean economy, has noted that this obsession with aggrandizing the military was driven by ideology as much as it was by external security threats. Self-reliance required the strongest military one could muster. The net effect, however, was an increasingly reckless and irresponsible approach to the economy. In order to offset the strain of the military budget on the economy, the DPRK should have directed efforts at excavating coal and other mineral resources to trade for hard currency, which mighty then have been used to finance heavy industry development, and to address energy shortages. Instead, the government decided to engage in massive borrowing from foreign markets. At the times, it seemed like the right decision. Sino-American rapprochement and U.S.-Soviet detente transformed relations between the East and West, and in this wider political context Western European countries were willing to extend credit to countries like North Korea. More important, the North began looking over its its shoulder as the 1970s saw the gradual acceleration of South Korean growth and development of major heavy industries like the Pohang Steel Complex.

So, in 1972, Pyongyang borrowed $80 million from France to build a fertilizer plant. The following year they borrowed another $160 million, from the United Kingdom to build a cement factory. In 1974, they borrowed $400 million from countries including Japan for large-scale plant equipment. In fact, between 1970 and 1975, the North borrowed approximately $1.2 billion before foreign governments realized that Pyongyang could not service the debt, These numbers do not account for whatever else might have been provided to the North from Eastern bloc countries and China.Thus, in 1976, the debt market dried up for the North as precipitously as it had opened to them six years earlier. Trapped by it own self-reliance ideology, the North could not do things normal nations would, such as issue bonds to finance its debt. Today, North Korea’s external debt is estimated $12.5 billion and no one expects them to pay it off. An attempt was made to pay back some of this in 1990 and 1991, but the DPRK has long since defaulted on its long-term debt. Pyongyang has occasionally asked Russia and former Soviet satellites like Czech Republic to forgive the majority of the debt. In response, these countries have asked for North Korea to repay part of the debt through barter. Pyongyang asked Russia in 2007 to make a “high-level political decision” to forgive $8.8 billion in unpaid debt. In August 2010, Prague asked for zinc ore as repayment for an outstanding $10 million in unpaid loans from the Cold War when it provided Kim Il-sung with machinery and equipment. Pyongyang responded that it would provide four hundred tons of “heavenly ginseng root” worth some $500,000. Since annual consumption of the root in the country was barely two tons, this would have kept Czechs well-stocked with ginseng—which, among its many reported benefits, boasts of enhancing sexual vitality—for two hundred years. As unusual secondary market has emerged for North Korean debt that a few courageous investors have dared to enter. It sells DPRK debt paper at about 6 cents on the dollar, based on the bet not that Pyongyang would ever repay but that under a future unification scenario, South Korea would want to reestablish North Korean creditworthiness as it worked to gradually reintegrate the two systems. If Seoul were to take on this debt, it could repay it all, speculators hope, with only one week’s addition to its foreign exchange reserves. Even if Seoul were to pay off only a portion of the debt, speculators could make six to seven times what they have paid for North Korean paper.

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North Korea Boasts Economic Construction Enabled as a Nuclear State

Thursday, April 11th, 2013

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
2013-4-11

Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of the Workers’ Party declared that North Korea has secured its position as a nuclear state, advancing the nation to concentrate on the economic construction, in an editorial last Friday.

This can be interpreted as North Korea’s intent to place more emphasis on investments towards economic development now that it has “made advancement in nuclear weapons capabilities to respond to any threats from the United States and South Korea.”

The editorial stated, “The tremendous mental and material potentials provided by the great Generalissimos Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, the socialist system of Juche based on collectivism and rich experience made in the effort to build an economic power are precious assets for making a great leaping progress in economic construction.”

This is in line with last month’s plenary meeting of the WPK Central Committee that reiterated the importance of parallel policy of economic construction and nuclear power to compete against the United States.

At the meeting, parallel policy of economy and defense were acclaimed to be superior in its war deterrence and defense capabilities without increasing the defense budget to provide support for economic construction and improve the lives of the people. In addition, agricultural and light industries were named as key sectors and called for improvements in the production of everyday goods for the people and reach the grain production target for this year.

On the other hand, Finance minister Choe Kwang Jin reported at the meeting of the Supreme People’s Assembly on April 1 that 44.8 percent of the national budget was allocated for economic development and improvement of its citizen’s lives.

In addition, the news reported that 38.9 percent of the total expenditures were shifted to social cultural and people policies to implement free compulsory education, healthcare, social insurance and social security systems and secure the development of arts, literature and sports.

The minister added that the rest of the budget was allocated for national defense but no specific amount of defense budget was disclosed.

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KPA asset data

Friday, March 29th, 2013

KPA-data-2013

In the kerfuffle that followed James’ NK News post about the North Korean targeting Austin, TX, Yonhap reports on KPA asset data that was also on display in the official KCNA photos:

Media coverage of an emergency military meeting convened by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on Friday shows an overview of its major weapons system, giving a rare glimpse of the isolated communist country’s armed forces.

The list shows that North Korea has 40 submarines, 13 landing ships, six minesweepers, 27 support vessels and 1,852 aircrafts [sic], with some of the numbers covered by senior officials.

Military officials in Seoul said the figure is similar to the defense ministry’s estimation of North Korea’s weapons system, though there are some differences.

According to the 2012 defense white paper, the North is estimated to have 70 submarines and midget subs, 260 landing ships, 30 mine sweepers, 30 support vessels, 820 fighter jets, 30 surveillance aircrafts, 330 parachute drop aircrafts and 170 training jets.

While there are some disparities between the list and Seoul’s assessment, the number of midget subs seems to have been excluded from the list disclosed in the photo, military officials said.

As Pyongyang has never disclosed its weapon system in the past, outside watchers speculate that the North Korean military has mistakenly disclosed the confidential information.

“It may have been leaked accidently,” said a senior military official, who asked to remain anonymous. “It could have been unveiled as the North hurriedly reported the emergency meeting.”

Others said the photo may be aimed at stoking tensions by showing that Kim is mulling ways to strike the U.S., considering the operational map that has several lines between the Korean Peninsula and the U.S. Its details were not recognizable in the photo.

The Washington Post has offered some additional data in a follow up article on 4-25-2013:

South Korea says North Korea has more than 13,000 artillery guns, and its long-range batteries are capable of hitting the capital Seoul, a city of more than 10 million people just 30 miles (50 kilometers) from the border.

“North Korea’s greatest advantage is that its artillery could initially deliver a heavy bombardment on the South Korean capital,” Mark Fitzpatrick, a former U.S. State Department official now with the International Institute for Strategic Studies, said in an email.

South Korea’s defense minister estimates that 70 percent of North Korean artillery batteries along the border could be “neutralized” in five days if war broke out. But Sohn Yong-woo, a professor at the Graduate School of National Defense Strategy of Hannam University in South Korea, said that would be too late to prevent millions of civilian casualties and avert a disastrous blow to Asia’s fourth-largest economy.

Seoul estimates North Korea has about 200,000 special forces, and Pyongyang has used them before.

In 1968, 31 North Korean commandos stormed Seoul’s presidential Blue House in a failed assassination attempt against then-President Park Chung-hee. That same year, more than 120 North Korean commandos sneaked into eastern South Korea and killed some 20 South Korean civilians, soldiers and police officers.

In 1996, 26 North Korean agents infiltrated South Korea’s northeastern mountains after their submarine broke down, sparking a manhunt that left all but two of them dead, along with 13 South Korean soldiers and civilians.

North Korea has 70 submarines while South Korea has 10, according to Seoul’s Defense Ministry. The most menacing threats from the North’s navy are small submarines that would deposit commando raiders along the South Korean coast, said John Pike, head of the Globalsecurity.org think tank.

North Korea also has 820 warplanes, more than South Korea, though Seoul is backed up by American air power. The South says most of the North’s aircraft are obsolete. North Korea also suffers chronic fuel shortages that have forced its air force to cut sorties, experts say.

“North Korea would not be able to prosecute a full-fledged war for very long,” Fitzpatrick said. “Its biggest problem is that North Korea would quickly lose control of the skies because of the vastly superior (South Korean) and U.S. air forces. The reported number of North Korean aircraft is meaningless, because many of them cannot fly, and North Korean pilots have little training in the air.”

Pyongyang is believed to have enough weaponized plutonium for four to eight nuclear bombs, according to Siegfried Hecker, a nuclear expert with Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation.

But he doubts Pyongyang has mastered the technology to tip a missile with a nuclear warhead. “I don’t believe North Korea has the capacity to attack the United States with nuclear weapons mounted on missiles and won’t for many years,” he said on the website of Stanford University’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies this month.

orth Korea denies it runs any chemical and biological weapons programs. South Korea claims that Pyongyang has up to 5,000 tons of chemical weapons.

The IISS says that although the figures are “highly speculative,” the North probably does possess chemical and biological arms programs.

“Whatever the actual status of North Korea’s chemical and biological capabilities, the perception that it has, or likely has, chemical and biological weapons contributes to Pyongyang’s interest in creating uncertainties in Washington, Seoul and Tokyo and raises the stakes to deter or intimidate potential enemies,” it said on its website. North Korea is not a signatory to the Chemical Weapons Convention, but it has acceded to the non-binding Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention.

Read the full stories here:
N. Korea’s photo offers glimpse of major weapons
Yonhap
Kim Eun-jung
2013-3-29

A look at the strengths and weaknesses of North Korea’s military
Washington Post (Associated Press)
2013-4-25

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KPA senior staff paid with debit cards

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

According to RFA:

North Korea’s regime is distributing special monthly payments in U.S. currency via a cash card system to high-ranking military officers in a bid to maintain loyalty, according to a source inside the country.

The payments can be spent at stores and restaurants equipped with card readers which accept foreign currency, the source told RFA’s Korean Service Wednesday, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“Since last year, North Korean generals in the military have been receiving a U.S. dollar cash cards every month,” said the source, who claims to have wide knowledge of the North Korean military.

“This is Kim Jong Un’s new instruction to guarantee a good lifestyle for the generals,” he said, referring to the country’s young “Supreme Leader” who took power after his father Kim Jong Il’s death in December 2011.

According to the source, four-star generals in the North Korean military receive around U.S. $1,200 each month on their cards, while three-star generals get U.S. $1,000 and two-star generals make U.S. $700. These payments are on top of their monthly salaries.

The special payments drawn by the generals dwarf the average government worker’s monthly salary of about 2,000 to 6,000 won (U.S. $0.70 to $2 based on prevailing market rates).

“The amount of cash on the card depends on the person’s level in the military,” the source said.

“When you have spent all of the cash, the card gets recharged again the following month. I’m not sure whether the provider is ‘Office 39’ of the Workers’ Party or the General Logistics Bureau.”

Office 39 of the ruling Workers Party is believed to maintain a foreign currency slush fund, while the General Logistics Bureau controls logistics, support, and procurement activities for the massive North Korean military.

The source said that recipients of the cash card are not limited to generals, but also include other high-level officers from a unit that directs infiltration activities by North Korean military agents in South Korea and another unit that is in charge of “electronic combat” in the General Reconnaissance Bureau.

“A colonel in the General Reconnaissance Bureau is able to spend up to U.S. $400 a month on the card,” the source said.

“A high-ranking military officer who is not a general can receive U.S. currency on a card if he is in charge of an important duty.”

There are a number of stores and restaurants where recipients can spend their cash in the capital Pyongyang, the source said.

Generals can also use their cards at guesthouses in seaside resort cities like Cheongjin in North Hamgyong province and Hamheung in South Hamgyong province, which only cater to officers of their rank.

For their convenience, card readers have been set up at places where foreign currency is traded, he said.

I have previously posted on the DPRK’s debit card system here, here, and here.

There are a number of reasons why this makes a particularly effective control tool.  To begin with, the military senior staff are dependent on the party to receive their elite consumer goods.  Additionally, these money balances cannot be directly spent in the markets or easily transferred to third parties.  Finally, in theory, all purchases can be audited. FECs (FOreign Excahnge Certificates) on speed.

Read the full story here:
North Korean Generals Get Cash Cards for Loyalty
RFA
2013-2-21

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Third nuclear test…

Monday, February 11th, 2013

UPDATE 25 (2013-3-31): The Washington Post reports on the unresolved question of whether the DPRK tested a plutonium or uranium nuclear device:

In the days following the detonation, U.S. and South Korean sensors failed to detect even a trace of the usual radioactive gases in any of the 120 monitoring stations along the border and downwind from the test site, the officials said. A Japanese aircraft recorded a brief spike of one radioactive isotope, xenon-133, but it was seen as inconclusive, the analysts said. Xenon-133 is released during nuclear weapons tests but also given off by nuclear power plants.

The second analyst familiar with the data said it appeared that North Korea “went to some length to try to contain releases. One possible reason to try to contain releases is secrecy, so we don’t know very much about their nuclear testing.”

The second analyst added that North Korea also appears to be worried about the reaction from China, its most important ally, in the event that radioactivity drifts across the border and causes panic among residents.

Officials and analysts said North Korea’s second nuclear test, which occurred in 2009, also left no detectable traces. Some experts pointed out that finding evidence of a nuclear blast is often a matter of luck because of the dependence on air currents and geological features at the test site. Still, it would not be surprising for North Korea to take extra steps to prevent outsiders from gaining insights into its nuclear capability, said a third U.S. official with access to classified data on the tests.

“Any country conducting a nuclear test works hard to contain it,” the official said.

U.S. intelligence agencies had positioned special aircraft in the region in hopes of picking up two or more types of radioactive isotopes from the blast. Comparing ratios of isotopes can help determine the material used in the device.

Seismology readings confirmed that the explosion occurred under a mountain near North Korea’s border with China. The readings indicated it was roughly as powerful as the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. Statements released by U.S. intelligence agencies have described the Feb. 12 event as a “probable” nuclear test.

North Korea’s state-run news agencies said the country had “diversified” its nuclear stockpile with the new test. The declaration underscored concerns that the North had mastered a design that uses the country’s ample supply of uranium. North Korea’s plutonium stockpile consists of only a few dozen pounds of the gray metal, enough to build a handful of bombs. But recent visits to North Korea by U.S. nuclear experts confirmed that Pyongyang operates at least one uranium-enrichment factory, described by visitors as large, sophisticated and fully operational.

UPDATE 24 (2013-3-7): UNSC passes 2094.

UPDATE 23 (2013-2-26): Jeffrey Lewis in 38 North, “Frienemies: The North’s Nuclear Test Was Bad Enough, The South Shouldn’t Make It Worse

UPDATE 22 (2013-2-23): Yonhap reports on the treatment of those involved in the test:

More than 11,000 North Koreans have been cited for their contribution to the country’s nuclear test earlier this month, the country’s media said Saturday.

North Korea carried out its third nuclear test on Feb. 12, drawing strong international condemnation. The U.N. Security Council is currently working out countermeasures to penalize the communist country.

The North’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said in a report that a total of 11,592 scientists, technicians, workers and officials have received state decorations for their roles in the test.

The report, monitored in Seoul, gave no further details, including the identify of any awardees.

The English-language report also said that “100 were awarded the title of Hero of the DPRK (North Korea) with a gold star medal and Order of National Flag First Class.”

Following its December long-range rocket launch, North Korea had earlier honored a total of 101 scientists and engineers with the Hero of the DPRK titles, according to the KCNA.

An additional 5,700 were cited for their contribution to the launch, it said.

UPDATE 21 (2013-2-19): Russia has staked out its position on the imposition of further sanctions by the UNSC. According to Reuters:

“Any additional measures of pressure on North Korea should be aimed exclusively at the sphere of non-proliferation of nuclear arms and rocket launches,” Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov told a news conference.

“We are against measures that would affect normal trade and economic relations with North Korea. We understand our Chinese colleagues have similar views.”

UPDATE 20 (2013-2-18): The EU has passed additional sanctions on the DPRK.   According to Reuters:

The sanctions expand those approved by the U.N. Security Council in January, adding measures preventing trading in North Korean government bonds, gold, precious metals, and diamonds, EU diplomats said.

“We have pushed for enhancing the sanctions. This is the answer to a nuclear programme which endangers not only the region but the whole security architecture worldwide,” Germany’s Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said during a meeting with his EU counterparts in Brussels.

The new sanctions ban components that could be used in ballistic missiles such as “certain types of aluminum used in ballistic missile-related systems”.

North Korea was widely condemned last week after its third nuclear test since 2006, defying United Nations resolutions and putting the country closer to a workable long-range nuclear missile.

North Korean banks will also barred from opening new branches in the European Union and European banks would not be able to open new branches in the northeast Asian state. Diplomats could not say if North Korean banks had any branches in the EU.

According to US News:

The 27 EU finance ministers also demanded North Korea abstain from further tests and urged it to sign the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty without delay. The statement came as the ministers met Monday in Brussels.

Their action brings the number of North Koreans subject to a travel ban and an asset freeze to 26, and the number of sanctioned companies to 33. The ministers also banned the export of components for ballistic missiles, such as certain types of aluminum, and prohibited trade in new public bonds from North Korea.

For more detailed information on the EU sanctions see here:

Council conclusions on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), 3222nd Foreign Affairs Council meeting, Brussels, 18 February 2013 (PDF)

Council reinforces EU sanctions against orth Korea, Brussels, 18 February 2013, 6330/13, PRESSE 53 (PDF)

UPDATE 19 (2013-2-16): Today a couple of articles came out on the Chinese perspective.  Chinese tired of North Korea’s behavior. Chinese worried about radiation.

UPDATE 18 (2013-2-15): The US House passes a resolution condemning the blast. On February 25, the US Senate passed a resolution.

UPDATE 16 (2013-2-15): Jeffrey Lewis on yield estimates.

UPDATE 15 (2013-4-15): Friday Fun from Andy Borowitz!

UPDATE 14 (2013-4-15): Update on CTBTO findings related to the announced nuclear test by North Korea.

UPDATE 13 (2013-2-14): The Daily NK reports that the North Korean city of Hyesan experienced earth quake damage.

UPDATE 12 (2013-2-14): The Washington Post on sanctions.

UPDATE 11 (2013-2-14): The South Koreans report that they have been unable to detect isotopes in the air for analysis.  According to the BBC:

Finding certain isotopes – xenon gases in particular – would help experts determine whether a plutonium or uranium-based device was used.

But a well-contained test could yield no radioactive isotopes, experts say.

South Korean planes and ships were sent out immediately after the test to collect samples, as was a Japanese plane.

“Two days since the North’s nuclear test, the commission has completed analysing eight samples, but no radioactive isotopes have been discovered as of 15:00 Thursday,” the commission said.

No changes had been recorded at 122 unmanned radiation monitoring systems across the country, it added.

The story also reports on South Korean responses to the test.

The Economist also offers a roundup of the international relations.

UPDATE 10 (2013-2-13): Writing in 38 North, David Albright explores the technical advances made in the DPRK’s nuclear program. Here is the conclusion:

Regardless of North Korea’s progress prior to the February 12, 2013, test in miniaturizing its nuclear warheads, this underground nuclear test has likely advanced North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. North Korea could have improved the reliability of its designs and learned to further miniaturize its warheads for ballistic missile delivery. One important outstanding question is whether the test involved only plutonium or highly enriched uranium alone or in combination with plutonium.

ISIS assesses that North Korea has the capability to mount a warhead on the Nodong missile, although it recognizes the uncertainty in this estimate and that the warhead’s reliability cannot be ascertained. The test on February 12 could have, as North Korea stated, demonstrated this capability.

North Korea probably cannot deploy a warhead on an ICBM. However, with additional effort and time, North Korea will likely succeed in developing such a warhead too. More broadly, additional underground nuclear tests are bound to help North Korea produce a more sophisticated nuclear weapons arsenal that is both more deliverable and more deadly.

UPDATE 9 (2013-2-13): The Choson Ilbo on the cost of the DPRK’s nuclear program.

UPDATE 8 (2013-2-13): On the China – DPRK relationship

The Washington Post: Why China still supports North Korea, in six little words.

The New York Times publishes an article on the China – DPRK relationship.

Reuters published an article on the China – DPRK relationship citing different sets of data. Here are a couple of blurbs:

“The more the United States rebalances its forces in the Western Pacific, the more China has to give leeway in regulating its relationship with North Korea,” said Shen Dingli, a regional security expert at Shanghai’s Fudan University.

And North Korea is exploiting the current high levels of Sino-American mistrust.

and…

“China has always been worried that North Korea could collapse quickly,” said Zhu Feng, a professor of international studies at Peking University.

“It could be a refugee issue, or civil unrest, or military confrontations. That is why China has been hesitating,” he said.

In addition to providing undisclosed amounts of food and fuel to keep North Korea afloat since a mid-1990s famine killed more than a million North Koreans, Beijing has stepped up trade and investment.

China-North Korea trade rose an annual 24.7 percent to $3.1 billion in the first half of 2012, while the 2011 figure of $5.7 billion was a 62.4 percent gain over 2010. Beijing is also thought to take a generous – to Pyongyang – view of what constitutes “luxury goods” under a U.N. sanctions resolution banning exports of such items to North Korea.

UPDATE 7 (2013-2-12): Scott Snyder offers a summary of the event. Here is Jeffrey Lewis’ take on the explosion. Kim Jong-un gets photo with personnel.

UPDATE 6 (2013-2-12): Plutonium or uranium discussion begins.

The New York Times: North Korea’s Lesson: Nukes for Sale

Associate Press: NKorean Nuclear Test May Be Intelligence Windfall

UPDATE 5 (2013-2-12): The UNSC condemned the test. According to Reuters:

The non-binding statement was approved by all 15 council members.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said that Washington and its allies want the Security Council to pass a resolution that would “augment the sanctions regime” already in place due to Pyongyang’s 2006 and 2009 atomic tests.

The council statement was agreed at an emergency closed-door session convened by South Korea. Diplomats say negotiations on new sanctions could take weeks since China is likely to resist tough new measures for fear that new sanctions could lead to further retaliation by the North Korean leadership.

The UNSC statement can be found here.

A good summary of the situation on NPR.

Here is more in the Guardian.

UPDATE 4 (2013-3-12): And for some humor: The Onion headline, “World Surrenders To North Korea“. We should take bets as to which state-owned media source will pick this up as factual.

UPDATE 3 (2013-2-12): Institute for Science and International Security statement. Aidan Foster-Carter in the BBC.

US looks for leverage.

UPDATE 2 (2013-2-12): Well, it is the morning of the 12th on the east coast of the US.  Here are some of the news outlets reporting this am: Wall Street JournalWashington Post, New York Times, ABC (USA).

China, US, Japan condemn.

China, DPRK relations.

US Treasury Bonds unchanged.

Kaesong Industrial Zone unaffected.

38 North has lots of satellite imagery analysis.

Rodong Sinmun issued this statement.

KCNA has also published the following:

KCNA Report on Successful 3rd Underground Nuclear Test

Pyongyang, February 12 (KCNA) — The Korean Central News Agency released the following report on Tuesday:

The scientific field for national defence of the DPRK succeeded in the third underground nuclear test at the site for underground nuclear test in the northern part of the DPRK on Tuesday.

The test was carried out as part of practical measures of counteraction to defend the country’s security and sovereignty in the face of the ferocious hostile act of the U.S. which wantonly violated the DPRK’s legitimate right to launch satellite for peaceful purposes.

The test was conducted in a safe and perfect way on a high level with the use of a smaller and light A-bomb unlike the previous ones, yet with great explosive power. It was confirmed that the test did not give any adverse effect to the surrounding ecological environment.

The specific features of the function and explosive power of the A-bomb and all other measurements fully tallied with the values of the design, physically demonstrating the good performance of the DPRK’s nuclear deterrence that has become diversified.

The nuclear test will greatly encourage the army and people of the DPRK in their efforts to build a thriving nation with the same spirit and mettle as displayed in conquering space, and offer an important occasion in ensuring peace and stability in the Korean Peninsula and the region.

And this…

Spokesman for DPRK Foreign Ministry Urges U.S. to Choose between Two Options

Pyongyang, February 12 (KCNA) — The DPRK Foreign Ministry released the following statement on Tuesday:

The DPRK’s third nuclear test is a resolute step for self-defence taken by it to cope with the U.S. hostile act against it.

Its successful launch of satellite Kwangmyongsong 3-2 in December last year was a peaceful one from A to Z which was conducted according to its plan for scientific and technological development for economic construction and the improvement of the standard of people’s living.

The world including hostile countries recognized its application satellite’s entry into orbit and greatly admired its development of space technology.

The U.S., however, again prodded the UN Security Council into cooking up a new “resolution on sanctions” against the DPRK, terming its satellite launch a violation of the UNSC’s “resolution”.

Encroaching upon the right to satellite launch is an unpardonable grave hostile act as it is an infringement on the DPRK’s sovereignty.

By origin, the DPRK had neither need nor plan to conduct a nuclear test.

The DPRK’s nuclear deterrence has already acquired the trustworthy capability strong enough to make a precision strike at bases for aggression and blow them up at a single blow no matter where they are on the earth.

It was the DPRK’s goal to focus efforts on economic construction and the improvement of the standard of people’s living by dint of nuclear deterrence for self-defence provided by the great Generalissimos Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il all their lives.

The DPRK exercised its maximum self-restraint when the U.S. fabricated the “presidential statement” over its satellite launch for peaceful purposes by abusing the UNSC in April last year.

But the DPRK’s patience reached its limit as the U.S. intensified such hostile act as implementing before anyone else the UNSC’s “resolution on sanctions”, far from apologizing for its renewed wanton violation of the DPRK’s right to satellite launch.

The main objective of the current nuclear test is to express the surging resentment of the army and people of the DPRK at the U.S. brigandish hostile act and demonstrate the will and capability of Songun Korea to defend the sovereignty of the country to the last.

The DPRK’s nuclear test is a just step for self-defence not contradictory to any international law.

The U.S. has long put the DPRK on the list of preemptive nuclear strike.

It is quite natural just measure for self-defence to react to the U.S. ever-increasing nuclear threat with nuclear deterrence.

The DPRK withdrew from the NPT after going through legitimate procedures and chose the way of having access to nuclear deterrence for self-defence to protect the supreme interests of the country.

There have been on the earth more than 2 000 nuclear tests and at least 9 000 satellite launches in the UN history spanning over 60 years but there has never been a UNSC resolution on banning any nuclear test or satellite launch.

It is the U.S. that has conducted more nuclear tests and launched more satellites than any others. It, however, cooked up the UNSC’s “resolution” banning only the DPRK’s nuclear test and satellite launch. This is the breach of international law and the height of double standards.

Had the UNSC been impartial even a bit, it would not have taken issue with a sovereign state’s exercise of the right to self-defence and its scientific and technological activities for peaceful purposes but with the U.S. policy for preemptive nuclear strike, a threat to global peace and security, to begin with.

The current nuclear test is the primary countermeasure taken by the DPRK in which it exercised its maximum self-restraint.

If the U.S. takes a hostile approach toward the DPRK to the last, rendering the situation complicated, it will be left with no option but to take the second and third stronger steps in succession.

The inspection of ships and maritime blockade touted by the hostile forces will be regarded as war actions and will invite the DPRK’s merciless retaliatory strikes at their strongholds.

The U.S., though belatedly, should choose between the two options: To respect the DPRK’s right to satellite launch and open a phase of detente and stability or to keep to its wrong road leading to the explosive situation by persistently pursuing its hostile policy toward the DPRK.

In case the U.S. chooses the road of conflict finally, the world will clearly see the army and people of the DPRK defend its dignity and sovereignty to the end through a do-or-die battle between justice and injustice, greet a great revolutionary event for national reunification and win a final victory.

UPDATE 1 (2013-2-11): English reports coming out. CNN, Wall Street Journal, Guardian, Donga Ilbo, Yonahp, Washington Post, New York Times

ORIGINAL POST (2013-2-11): The South Korean media is reporting an “earthquake” in the DPRK. This is suspected to be the third nuclear test. There is not much on this yet, but here are some links:

Yonhap

Choson Ilbo

USGS earthquake data

Daily NK

38 North published this piece a couple of days ago

Nothing on KCNA or Rodong Sinmun yet.

I am told the following:

They’re not 100% sure but they are saying “what else could cause the artificial earthquake?”

Lee Myung bak called emergency National Security Council meeting and escalated their military readiness posture from 3rd degree to 2nd degree.

Some news outlets are saying the NK government told the US and China yesterday that they are going to test.

On February 3, 2013, ISIS reported on the status of the DPRK’s nuclear test site.

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New(ish) KPA construction in South Hwanghae Province

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

The following post I reported on Radio Free Asia yesterday.

The Korean Peoples’ Army (KPA) is increasing its air and artillery capacity in South Hwanghae Province within the vicinity of the disputed West Sea maritime border and Yonphyong-do.

To begin with, in south-west Kangryong County near Sikyo-ri (강령군, 식여리), the DPRK has established four new KPA units each with dispersed revetments which could be used to protect deployed offensive capabilities such as artillery or short range rockets (MRLs)…maybe KN-08s? I will leave it to the professionals to figure out.

Sikyo-ri-KPA-units-1

According to available commercial satellite imagery, these units were built sometime between 2010-7-4 and 2012-6-20:

Sikyo-ri-2010 Sikyo-ri-2012

In the image above, just one of the four areas that has been constructed, we can see the creation of the new KPA unit as well as six revetments. These revetments lie 14-16 miles from Yonphyong-do.

To the east of this area, near Habupho, Kangryong County (하부포, 강령군), the Korean Peoples’ Army is building three lines of hardened artillery (HART) positions to protect the DPRK’s Multiple Rocket Launch (MRL) vehicles deployed to this area:

Kangryong-harts-2012

According to available satellite imagery, construction on these HARTs began in early 2011, and as of 2012-6-20, they appear to be nearly complete.

Kangryon-HARTs-2010-11-24 Kangryon-HARTs-2012-6-20

The line closest to Yongphyong-do, is 8.5 miles and contains three HARTs (Above). The second line is approximately 9 miles from Yonphyong-do and also contains three HARTs.  The third line is nearly 10 miles from Yonphyong-do and contains 6 HARTs.

The DPRK is also increasing capacities at it the closest fortified air force base in Kiam-ri, Thaethan County (기암리, 태탄군).

Thaethan-airfield-2011-6-13

Thaethan-airfield-2012-9-21

Pictured above are two satellite images of the Thaethan air force base in North Korea.  The top image is dated 2011-6-13. The lower image is dated 2012-9-21. The lower image has two highlight boxes.  In the box to the right, we can see the construction of 36 revetments which would be used to shield deployed artillery positions.In the box to the right, we can see an expansion of housing for use by the soldiers stationed at this base.

I have written previously about new KPA construction in the area here and here (photo). Joseph Bermudez also wrote about  a new hovercraft base in South Hwanghae.

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Unha 3-2 rocket compendium

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

On December 12, 2012 the DPRK announced the lunch of Unha 3-2, the second launch of 2012. I have posted a collection of information below. The Wikipedia page is here. Orbital info here and here.

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UPDATE 26 (2013-2-27): The DPRK has formally registered its “satellite” with the UN. According to KCNA:

DPRK’s Satellite Officially Registered at UN

Pyongyang, February 27 (KCNA) — The DPRK presented its paper for the registration of its satellite Kwangmyongsong 3-2 at the UN as a signatory to the “Convention on Registration of Objects Launched into Outer Space” after its successful launch on December 12, Juche 101 (2012).

Recently the UN Space Office worked out UN official document (ST/SG/SER. E/662) as regards the registration of the DPRK’s satellite and posted it on the satellite registry of its website and the UN electronic archives website respectively. This brought to an end the work for registering the DPRK’s satellite launched after going through a legitimate procedure according to international law concerned.

Martyn Williams has more.

UPDATE 25 (2013-2-22): Markus Schiller’s Analysis of North Korea’s Unha-3 Launcher.

UPDATE 24 (2013-2-14): 38 North on new developments at the Tonghae launch site.

UPDATE 23 (2013-2-12): KCNA:

Political Bureau of WPK Central Committee Meets

Pyongyang, February 12 (KCNA) — A meeting of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) took place here on Monday.

Present there were members of the Presidium, members and alternate members of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the WPK.

The meeting adopted a decision “On marking the 65th anniversary of the DPRK and the 60th anniversary of the victory in the Fatherland Liberation War as grand festivals of victors”.

The decision emphasized the need to further deepen and accomplish the sacred cause of holding in high esteem the great Comrade Kim Il Sung and Comrade Kim Jong Il as eternal leaders of the WPK and the revolution.

The decision called for splendidly and significantly organizing political events marking the 60th anniversary of the victory in the Fatherland Liberation War and the 65th anniversary of the DPRK.

According to it, various political events will be held with splendor to mark the 60th anniversary of the victory in the Fatherland Liberation War. They will include a parade of the Korean People’s Army (KPA), mass demonstration of Pyongyang citizens, grand mass gymnastic and artistic performance “Arirang” and army-people joint meeting with war veterans.

The decision stressed the need to successfully rebuild the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum and spruce up the revolutionary battle sites, revolutionary sites and revolutionary museums including the revolutionary museum at Kim Il Sung University, the Museum of the Fatherland Liberation War and the Jonsung Revolutionary Museum.

It called for newly building a martyrs cemetery of the KPA in Pyongyang and sprucing up KPA martyrs cemeteries and monuments to the fallen fighters of the KPA in various parts of the country.

It underlined the need to resolutely foil all the hostile forces’ moves to isolate and stifle the DPRK by achieving proud victory in building an economic power and improving the people’s living standard.

It also underscored the need for all fields and units to do a lot of good works for the prosperity of the country and its people’s happiness on the occasion of the 65th birthday of the Republic.

It called for staging an all-out action of high intensity for reliably protecting the security and sovereignty of the country in view of the prevailing grave situation and marking the 65th anniversary of the DPRK and the 60th anniversary of the victory in the Fatherland Liberation War with fresh achievements in bolstering up capability for self-defence.

It stressed the need to continue launching satellites of Kwangmyongsong series and powerful long-range rockets.

It called on the KPA to keep itself fully ready for combat and put maximum spurs to rounding off its combat preparedness in order to bolster up one-beats-a hundred combat capability. It stressed that once an order is issued, the KPA should blow up the stronghold of aggression at a strike and wipe out the brigandish U.S. imperialists and south Korean puppet army to the last man and thus accomplish the historic cause of national reunification.

The decision called for sincerely helping the army and significantly conducting the work for putting forward and preferentially treating the war veterans and wartime merited persons as a social movement on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the war victory.

It underscored the need to give further spurs to building a highly civilized socialist nation.

It referred to the tasks for completing the preparations for the universal 12-year compulsory education within this year, establishing a medical information service network and telemedicine system, building a children’s hospital, a dental hospital and a recovery center and winding up the first phase project for updating the Hungnam Pharmaceutical Factory.

It also underscored the need to build a modern combined center for sports trainings and different kinds of mass sporting facilities and raise hot wind of sports throughout the country.

It called for face-lifting the central part of Pyongyang and building more modern cultural facilities including pleasure grounds and Munsu Wading Pool.

The decision stressed the need to arouse all compatriots to the struggle for resolutely foiling the anti-DPRK moves and “sanctions” racket of the U.S. imperialists and the south Korean puppet group of traitors and thoroughly implementing the June 15 joint declaration and the October 4 declaration so as to open up a new phase for national reunification.

It called for conducting external activities to grandly celebrate the 60th anniversary of the victory in the Fatherland Liberation War as a common event for the anti-imperialist independent forces and the world progressive people.

More in the NY Times here.

UPDATE 22 (2013-1-22): UNSC adopts resolution in response to DPRK rocket launch. According to Reuters:

The U.N. Security Council on Tuesday unanimously condemned North Korea’s December rocket launch and expanded existing U.N. sanctions, eliciting a vow from Pyongyang to boost the North’s military and nuclear capabilities.

Even though the resolution approved by the 15-nation council does not impose new sanctions on Pyongyang, diplomats said Beijing’s support for it was a significant diplomatic blow to Pyongyang.

The resolution said the council “deplores the violations” by North Korea of its previous resolutions, which banned Pyongyang from conducting further ballistic missile and nuclear tests and from importing materials and technology for these programs.

It also said the council “expresses its determination to take significant action in the event of a further DPRK (North Korean) launch or nuclear test.”

North Korea reacted quickly, saying it would hold no more talks on the de-nuclearization of the Korean peninsula and would boost its military and nuclear capabilities.

“We will take measures to boost and strengthen our defensive military power including nuclear deterrence,” its Foreign Ministry said in a statement carried by state news agency KCNA.

Six-party talks aimed at halting North Korea’s nuclear program have involved North Korea, the United States, China, Japan, Russia and South Korea. They have been held intermittently since 2003 but have stalled since 2008.

South Korea says the North is technically ready for a third nuclear test, and satellite images show it is actively working on its nuclear site.

The U.N. resolution added six North Korean entities, including Pyongyang’s space agency, the Korean Committee for Space Technology, and the man heading it, Paek Chang-ho, to an already existing U.N. blacklist.

CHINA WANTED ‘CAUTIOUS RESOLUTION’

The firms and individuals will all face an international asset freeze, while Paek and the others blacklisted by Tuesday’s resolution – the manager of the rocket launch center and two North Korean banking officials – will face a global travel ban.

In addition to the space agency, the council blacklisted the Bank of East Land, Korea Kumryong Trading Corp., Tosong Technology Trading Corp., Korea Ryonha Machinery Joint Venture Corp., and Leader (Hong Kong) International. The last, based in Hong Kong, is the North’s main arms dealer, the resolution said.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice welcomed the resolution, describing it as introducing “new sanctions” against North Korea. “This resolution demonstrates to North Korea that there are unanimous and significant consequences for its flagrant violation of its obligations under previous resolutions,” she said.

Other diplomats, however, said on condition of anonymity that saying the measures in Tuesday’s resolution were new sanctions would be an exaggeration.

China said on Monday that the Security Council needed to pass a cautious resolution on North Korea, adding that this was the best way to ensure regional tensions did not escalate further.

Several diplomats said Beijing’s decision to back the resolution sent a strong message to Pyongyang.

“It might not be much, but the Chinese move is significant,” a council diplomat told Reuters. “The prospect of a (new) nuclear test might have been a game changer (for China).”

The United States had wanted to punish North Korea for the rocket launch with a Security Council resolution that imposed entirely new sanctions against Pyongyang, but Beijing rejected that option.

China is the North’s only major diplomatic ally, although it agreed to U.N. sanctions against Pyongyang after North Korea’s 2006 and 2009 nuclear tests.

December’s successful long-range rocket launch, the first to put a satellite in orbit, was a coup for North Korea’s young leader, Kim Jong-un.

North and South Korea are still technically at war because their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce, not a treaty.

UPDATE 21 (2013-1-21): According to the BBC, the Unha 3-2 was manufactured domestically:

South Korean military and space experts salvaged 10 pieces of the rocket which it shed into the sea as it took off, including its first-stage engine, and its fuel and oxidiser tanks.

In its report, the South Korean Defence Ministry said: “North Korea is believed to have made a majority of components itself, although it used commercially available products imported from overseas.”

The BBC’s Lucy Williamson in the South Korean capital, Seoul, says this will be unwelcome news to many countries as they consider what the military applications of such technical ability could be.

Such rockets are technically similar to intercontinental ballistic missiles, which could reach the United States, she adds.

Here is a photo from the report. Here is more on the report.

UPDATE 20 (2013-1-18): China will not block further UNSC action. According to Bloomberg:

China’s apparent decision not to block expanded United Nations sanctions against North Korea for its satellite-cum-missile launch last month is good, if mysterious, news. Good, because China has traditionally resisted punishing North Korea for its misdeeds, arguing that engagement is more likely to bring results. Mysterious, because its reasons for changing its mind could be manifold.

Yuriko Koike, Japan’s former Minister of Defense and National Security Adviser, recently speculated that North Korea went ahead with the launch as a way of “blackmailing” its ally to support it. Because the launch right before elections in South Korea and Japan would strengthen hardliners in both countries, China would feel compelled to support North Korea in response. As Koike put it, “In Kim [Jong Un's] perverse logic, a new push for UN sanctions, and new security-conscious governments in Japan and South Korea, will strengthen North Korea’s hold on Chinese foreign policy.”

China’s decision suggests that Kim may have miscalculated. It could also mean, though, that the Chinese are worried that North Korea is getting increasingly hard to control, and that we should gird ourselves for more bad behavior — like, say, a third nuclear test. Its second nuclear detonation took place in May 2009 — shortly after its April 2009 launch of a rocket had been condemned by the UN Security Council.

The sanctions currently in place could use some tightening, starting with better implementation. In that respect, China’s decision to go along — or at least not stand in the way — represents a diplomatic victory for President Barack Obama’s administration. But past experiences with the North Koreans suggest that such measures rarely yield the desired result.

Yonhap has more here.

UPDATE 19 (2013-1-18): Marcus Noland has pictures of new stamps featuring the Unha rockets.

UPDATE 18 (2013-1-14): Japan plans to expand bilateral sanctions.

UPDATE 17 (2012-12-25): Martyn Williams has video of the satellite orbiting earth.

UPDATE 16 (2012-12-24): The Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea gave a grand banquet at the Mokran House on Friday in honor of scientists, technicians, workers and officials who made a contribution to the successful lift-off of satellite Kwangmyongsong 3-2. See the video here.

UPDATE 15 (2012-12-21): North Korea to become strong in science and technology by year 2022
Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)

North Korea is claiming its recent satellite launch on December 12, 2012 was part of a five-year plan for the development of science and technology.

According to the Choson Sinbo, a Japan-based pro-North Korean newspaper, the launchings of the Kwangmyongsong-2 and -3 satellites are directly related to the third Five-Year Plan for the development of science and technology. The paper also emphasized that the ultimate goal was to make North Korea a science and technology powerhouse by the year 2022.

The news summarized an article written by Professor Lim Jong-Hyuk of the Chongryon-affiliated Chosun University in Japan, explaining that the third Five-Year Plan for the development of science and technology began from 2008, making this year the last year of the plan.

According to Lim, this plan was created in order to solve the food shortage and improve the livelihoods of the North Korean people through the development of science and technology, including major research in information technology (IT), biotechnology (BT), and nanotechnology (NT) as well as energy development, nuclear technology, space technology, marine technology, and laser and plasma technology.

The professor claimed the recent launch was a part of this Five-Year Plan as the development of the space technology sector included the development of ultra-compact satellite and introduction of GPS (global positioning system) and GIS (geographic information system).

He further explained the first Five-Year Plan for science and technology development began in 1998. The initial goal of that plan was to solve the problem of science and technology necessary for the reconstruction of important sectors of the North Korean economy.  At the same time, it sought to make pioneering efforts into new fields of science and technology, including IT, space technology, and marine science.

The second plan, which began in 2003, focused on introducing and developing basic sciences, such as mathematics, physics, and chemistry in order to modernize major sectors of the economy.

However, some are refuting the claims of Professor Lim, saying that the first plan began in 2003 and not in 1998.  Ri Mun Ho, the Director of (DPRK) National Academy of Sciences, stated in a June 2006 interview with Choson Sinbo that Kim Jong Il made a field visit to the Hamheung Branch of the National Academy of Sciences in March 1999, directing for a five-year plan for the science and technology sector.

Some speculate that this is a deliberate misreporting of the starting date of the first plan to coincide with the 1998 rocket launch, North Korea’s self-proclaimed first attempt at putting an experimental satellite, the Kwangmyongsong-1, into space.

In the same interview, Ri explained that since 2004, North Korea began to install various economic management institutions in the Cabinet and other central government agencies to develop the research in science and technology sectors, since such was considered to be linked directly to the country’s economic development.

UPDATE 14 (2012-12-18): The DPRK’s satellite appears to be wobbling on its orbit which makes some wonder if the DPRK has control over it. According to the Los Angeles Times:

Is North Korea’s satellite dead in orbit? Launched last week, the spacecraft seems to be tumbling overhead, according to astronomers keeping track of the device.

“At this stage I’m getting a bit skeptical,” Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer with the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, said in an interview. “I would start to be mildly surprised if the satellite is really working.”

Retired astronomer Greg Roberts in Cape Town, South Africa, measured the light coming from the satellite orbiting roughly 300 miles above the Earth’s surface and found that it seems to grow bright and dim by turns, indicating that it’s spinning as it flies through space, McDowell said. If the satellite were working, it probably wouldn’t spin — it would have to keep the one side of its body with its camera pointed consistently at Earth.

What’s more, trackers looking for the patriotic songs that were supposed to be broadcast from the satellite have yet to pick up the signal, he added.

But the mere fact that the spacecraft made it to orbit is probably success enough for North Korean leaders, McDowell said.

“In any case, they have joined the club of space-faring nations,” McDowell said. “That is the main point for them, for this launch.”

UPDATE 13 (2012-12-17): Jeffrey Lewis has analysis on the construction of the rocket here.

UPDATE 12 (2012-12-14): The Daily NK reports on the DPRK’s media effort to tie the successful launch with Kim Jong-un.

UPDATE 11 (2012-12-14): Kim Jong-un visits the Sohae Space Center (서해위성발사장, Tongchang-ri):

UPDATE 10 (2012-12-14): The DPRK holds mass rally in support of the rocket launch.

UPDATE 9 (2012-12-14): NPR explores the relationship between the DPRK’s and Iran’s rocket programs:

U.S. officials say the satellite put into orbit by North Korea’s rocket launch this week is wobbling, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the launch itself was unsuccessful.

U.S. analysts say the North Koreans’ main goal was not to put a satellite into orbit, but just to see all three stages of their rocket work, to show that the rocket could carry its payload a long distance. That it did. In the last test, in April, the first rocket stages worked as designed, but the third stage failed. Charles Vick, a missile expert at GlobalSecurity.org, credits the North Koreans with learning from their past mistakes.

“They have demonstrated not merely an ability to identify problems, but to resolve those problems and get the total system to work together, all three stages working as a single launch vehicle,” he said.

So, the North Koreans are making progress.

Next question: What, if anything, did this launch mean for Iran?

Iran denies missile ties.

UPDATE 8 (2012-12-13): Evan Ramstad writes in the Wall Street Journal’s Korea Real Time:

North Korea’s rocket shot on Wednesday may have been the greatest success it has yet had in a decades-long effort to develop the technology for long range missiles. But there’s also less to it than meets the eye.

A technical report published by the Rand Corporation in September concludes that the threat posed by North Korea’s missile program is not as significant as widely portrayed. It says the main driver the North Korea regime is political: “to create the impression of a serious missile threat and thereby gain strategic leverage, fortify the North Korean regime’s domestic power, and deter other countries, particularly the Republic of Korea and the United States, from military action.”

The author of the study, Markus Schiller, a missile expert at Schmucker Technologie in Germany, said in an e-mail interview that Wednesday’s launch doesn’t change his conclusions about the North’s missile capabilities or intentions.

“There is no need to reconsider any conclusions or recommendations of the report,” he said. He noted this is the country’s only success of long-range technology from five launches over nearly 15 years and was a “rocket that uses old Russian engines.”

“I would say that a North Korean cargo ship, or an airliner from Koryo Air, is more dangerous,” he added, referring to the North’s state-run airline. “If they wanted an ICBM [intercontinental ballistic missile], they have to develop a new rocket, using different technology. This would take a very long time, require a lot of work, and cost a lot of money.”

He said the rocket that North Korea launched on Wednesday is not powerful enough to carry a nuclear warhead very far. Its satellite payload may have only weighed 100 kilograms (220 pounds), while a warhead would be five to seven times heavier. “The whole rocket’s performance is too low to be used as an ICBM, even in three stage configuration,” he said.

Using the Soviet-era technology that was the basis for the rocket fired on Wednesday, Mr. Schiller estimates North Korea would need to build a rocket that’s two to three times larger to hit the U.S. The alternative, he said, is to use different technology and more efficient propellants. “But this is a completely new rocket,” he said.

He added that North Korea also needs to demonstrate that it can design complex warheads that can withstand the heat and acceleration that an ICBM goes through when it re-enters the atmosphere.

In his paper for Rand, Mr. Schiller recommends that policymakers in other countries not get overly concerned about the North’s missile tests. “Don’t elevate the North Korean threat,” he wrote. “This is exactly what the North Korean regime wants.”

That has sparked some criticism from with other analysts and North Korea watchers. But even the most hawkish analysts say that North Korea is far from posing a real danger with its long-range missiles.

Bruce Bechtol, a former U.S. military intelligence analyst who now teaches at Angelo State University in Texas, said that North Korea has several hurdles to overcome, including miniaturizing a warhead and deploying its long-range missiles in a way that can’t be detected. “It takes several days for them to set it up,” he said. “If see them setting it up, we could take it out.”

And he noted that, if North Korea wants want to sell the technology to countries like Iran, they’ll face difficulties shipping parts by sea and air. “They still have several issues,” Mr. Bechtol said.

UPDATE 7 (2012-12-13): Here are additional articles in KCNA:

Kim Jong Un Observes Satellite Launch Processes

Pyongyang, December 13 (KCNA) — The dear respected Marshal Kim Jong Un, first secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK), first chairman of the National Defence Commission (NDC) of the DPRK and supreme commander of the Korean People’s Army, gave a final written order regarding the launch of the second version of Kwangmyongsong-3 to the Korean Committee of Space Technology at 8 a.m. on December 12, 2012.

He visited the General Satellite Control and Command Center at 9 a.m., one hour before the launch.

Kim Jong Un learned about the preparations for the launch and issued an order on the launch and keenly observed the whole processes of the launch.

Kim Jong Un expressed great satisfaction over the successful launch of the satellite by our scientists and technicians and highly estimated their feats. He extended thanks to them in the name of the WPK Central Committee.

The second version of scientific and technological satellite Kwangmyongsong-3 is Juche satellite in every aspect as it was developed and manufactured by the DPRK with its own strength, technology and wisdom, he said, saying with pleasure that successful and accurate entry of the satellite into its pole-to-pole trajectory further consolidated the status of the DPRK as a space power and demonstrated that the country has reached the highest level in terms of cutting-edge science and technology.

The successful launch of the satellite served as an occasion that showed at home and abroad the unshakable stand of the WPK and the DPRK government to exercise the country’s legitimate right to use space for peaceful purposes and to develop the country’s science, technology and economy, he noted.

The launch was successful even though it was made in the winter time when difficult scientific and technological problems arise, he said, adding that this is a proud victory that demonstrated the high level the country’s science and technology have reached.

He stressed the need to continue to launch satellites in the future, too, to develop the country’s science, technology and economy.

Underscoring the need to bring about a fresh turn in scientific researches into space and satellite launch field based on the successful launch of the second version of satellite Kwangmyongsong-3, he set forth important tasks for doing so.

He repeatedly spoke highly of the ardent loyalty and patriotic devotion made by scientists and technicians who greatly contributed to strikingly displaying the might of science and technology of Juche Korea to the world and had a photo session with them.

He was accompanied by Jang Song Thaek, member of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the WPK and vice-chairman of the NDC, and Pak To Chun, member of the Political Bureau and secretary of the WPK Central Committee.

DPRK’s Satellite Launch Represents Its Sci-Tech Development

Pyongyang, December 13 (KCNA) — The successful launch of another satellite in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea represented the nation’s sci-tech development and economic potentials.

Pak Chang Sop, a section chief of the IT Institute of Kim Il Sung University, told KCNA:

“The successful launch showcased the overall might of Songun Korea, and it is a great auspicious event of the nation that significantly adorned this year.

The success reminds me of the tireless efforts made by Generalissimo Kim Jong Il for the development of the national science. I would like to extend heartfelt greetings to the space scientists who implemented his behests.”

Pang Kwon Yong, an engineer of the Korean Computer Centre, said:

“The recent successful launch of satellite, a complex of science and technology, displayed again the might of the DPRK as a full-fledged satellite launcher.”

Kim Myong Chol, a researcher of the Central Meteorological Institute, said:

“The success is attributable to the policy of the Workers’ Party of Korea on giving importance to science.

The working satellite, launched this time, will be greatly conducive to our work as it is an earth observation one.”

DPRK Has Earth Observation Technology: Scientist

Pyongyang, December 13 (KCNA) — The DPRK successfully launched the second version of satellite Kwangmyongsong-3 on Wednesday.

In this regard, KCNA met Kim Hye Jin, a section chief of the General Satellite Control and Command Center.

Kim said:

“The second version is an earth observation satellite going round the sun-synchronous orbit.

As such kind of satellite requires ultra modern technologies, many countries launch satellites atop others’ carrier rockets.

We found out shortcomings in April’s failed satellite launch and solved them.

Those opposed to the DPRK’s development of space science would be surprised by its successful satellite launch.

The DPRK’s satellite launch is aimed to attain the technology for earth observation with its own satellites. Unlike the satellites launched in the past, the second version of Kwangmyongsong-3 is viewed as the start of the stage in which satellites are actually used for the progress of the national economy. Its successful launch helps the DPRK fully gain up-to-date communications technology as well as earth observation technology.”

DPRK’s Satellite Enters Its Preset Orbit: Scientist

Pyongyang, December 13 (KCNA) — On Wednesday, journalists covered the details of the launch of the second version of satellite Kwangmyongsong-3 at the General Satellite Control and Command Center on the outskirts of Pyongyang City.

On the first hand, they watched videos on the Sohae Space Center in Cholsan County, North Phyongan Province, carrier rocket Unha-3 with a satellite atop and its flight.

The videos also included technical indices on flight track, the scene of the satellite launch and its entry into the orbit.

Kim Hye Jin, 44, a section chief of the center, told KCNA:

“We confirmed that the satellite was separated from the three-stage rocket.

The satellite is now airing ‘Song of General Kim Il Sung’ and ‘Song of General Kim Jong Il’. We are sure our technology of putting satellite into orbit is flawless. I think those countries developed in space science and technology can not but acknowledge it in view of our satellite flight track.”

UPDATE 6 (2012-12-13): Everybody was apparently caught off guard by the launch. According to the Choson Ilbo:

South Korea, the U.S. and Japan were apparently taken wholly by surprise when North Korea launched a rocket on Wednesday. The three countries had concluded only on Tuesday that there was no chance that the launch would take place this week or even this month.

Only a few days earlier, North Korea announced that a technical glitch had been detected and the launch window would have to be extended until Dec. 29

Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin told lawmakers he did not know that the launch would go ahead. Military officials here detected activity at the launch site on Tuesday afternoon and reported it to Cheong Wa Dae, but apparently failed to identify signs of an imminent launch.

Japanese Defense Minister Satoshi Morimoto said Tokyo confirmed that North Korea removed the rocket from its launch pad on Tuesday and had started to disassemble it for repairs.

South Korea and Japan had apparently reached the conclusion based on photos taken by U.S. spy satellites.

“Military authorities may have been careless in preparing for a North Korean launch by simply trusting the North Korean announcement,” said one retired general here.

“We were fooled by North Korea because of weaknesses in intelligence gathering and faulty judgment,” he added.

And according to CNN:

“We had our dukes up, operationally, but we were caught off guard,” the official said.

“The clues point to a concerted effort to deceive us,” the official said. The analysis was ordered in the wake of the launch to determine what exactly happened and how much the U.S. intelligence knew at the time.

The official said one conclusion was that while missile defenses can fully protect against a North Korean attack, the North Koreans have shown they can counter U.S. measures to gather intelligence about what they are up to.

“Look, they know when our satellites are passing overhead,” the official said. It’s believed the North Koreans essentially manipulated the launch so U.S. intelligence satellites simply would not be overhead and able to see what was happening.

The most likely scenario, the official said, was that North Korea wasn’t telling the truth when it announced several days before the launch that there were technical problems with the missile.

According to the official, the intelligence analysis found that:

– The United States observed the North Koreans beginning to take apart the three-stage rocket and move parts of it away from the launch pad, then observed what were believed to be so-called replacement parts being moved in.

– In retrospect, those parts appear to have been from a second, older-generation long-range missile that were in storage. Those parts most likely were never used in the December 12 launch.

During this time, when the United States did not have total visibility of the launch site, it’s believed the North Koreans either quickly reassembled the original rocket and fired it.

– It’s also possible the U.S. miscalculated and the North Koreans never took it apart at all.

Earlier this week, South Korean defense officials warned that the latest North Korean missile had the capability to travel more than 6,000 miles, meaning this type of rocket could strike the United States. However, experts do not believe Pyongyang has a nuclear warhead small enough to fly on the kind of missile.

The South Koreans have also noticed that the DPRK has beaten them into space.

UPDATE 5 (2012-12-12): The White House has issued a formal response to the rocket launch:

Statement from NSC Spokesman Tommy Vietor on North Korea’s Missile Launch

North Korea’s launch today—using ballistic missile technology despite express prohibitions by United Nations Security Council resolutions—is a highly provocative act that threatens regional security, directly violates United Nations Security Council resolutions 1718 and 1874, contravenes North Korea’s international obligations, and undermines the global non-proliferation regime. This action is yet another example of North Korea’s pattern of irresponsible behavior. The United States remains vigilant in the face of North Korean provocations and fully committed to the security of our allies in the region. Given this current threat to regional security, the United States will strengthen and increase our close coordination with allies and partners.

On April 16, 2012, the United Nations Security Council expressed its “determination to take action accordingly in the event of a further [North Korean] launch.” In the hours and days ahead, the United States will work with its Six-Party partners, the United Nations Security Council, and other UN member states to pursue appropriate action. The international community must work in a concerted fashion to send North Korea a clear message that its violations of United Nations Security Council resolutions have consequences. The international community continues to insist that North Korea live up to its commitments, adhere to its international obligations, and deal peacefully with its neighbors.

North Korea is only further isolating itself by engaging in such provocative acts. Devoting scarce resources to the development of ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons has not brought it security and acceptance by the international community—and never will. North Korea will only truly strengthen itself by abiding by international norms, living up to its commitments and international obligations, and working to feed its citizens, to educate its children, and to win the trust of its neighbors.

UPDATE 4 (2012-12-12): Uriminzokkiri post video of rocket launch:

This video explains the launch from inside the rocket control center:

 

UPDATE 3 (2013-12-12): Scott Snyder on the DPRK’s rocket launch:

The task of responding to North Korea’s apparently successful satellite launch poses an immediate challenge to North Korea’s neighbors, each of which are in the middle of leadership transitions. The impending UN Security Council debate will come as an early test for China’s new leadership under Xi Jinping and as evidence that China’s comprehensive engagement strategy with North Korea has failed to restrain North Korean provocations. Since China’s overriding objectives toward North Korea remain stability and crisis avoidance, China will remain the main obstacle to any significantly punitive international response. It is likely only to agree to yet another ineffective UN presidential statement condemning the launch, resisting efforts to expand sanctions against North Korea.

North Korea’s satellite comes days before Japanese and South Korean voters go to the polls, raising the likelihood that national security will be on the minds of voters in both countries. LDP leader and likely next Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe led the country’s strong response to North Korea’s 2006 rocket launch. His efforts resulted in the first UN resolution to criticize North Korean missile tests UN Security Council resolution 1695. South Korea has faced a long tradition of North Korean provocative actions designed to influence South Korean election outcomes, but it is unclear how a satellite launch could tilt South Korea’s electoral result in the North’s favor. The North has publicly opposed conservative candidate Park Geun-hye, but it is hard to say how a satellite launch helps opposition candidate Moon Jae-in or others who advocate a fast-track for reconciliation with the North.

UPDATE 2 (2013-12-12): The DPRK has apparently concluded is first successful “satellite” launch. According to KCNA:

DPRK Succeeds in Satellite Launch

Pyongyang, December 12 (KCNA) — The second version of satellite Kwangmyongsong-3 successfully lifted off from the Sohae Space Center in Cholsan County, North Phyongan Province by carrier rocket Unha-3 on Wednesday.

The satellite entered its preset orbit.

and here…

KCNA Releases Report on Satellite Launch

Pyongyang, December 12 (KCNA) — The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) released the following report Wednesday:

Scientists and technicians of the DPRK successfully launched the second version of satellite Kwangmyongsong-3 into its orbit by carrier rocket Unha-3, true to the last instructions of leader Kim Jong Il.

Carrier rocket Unha-3 with the second version of satellite Kwangmyongsong-3 atop blasted off from the Sohae Space Center in Cholsan County, North Phyongan Province at 09:49:46 on December 12, Juche 101(2012). The satellite entered its preset orbit at 09:59:13, 9 minutes and 27 seconds after the lift-off.

The satellite is going round the polar orbit at 499.7 km perigee altitude and 584.18 km apogee altitude at the angle of inclination of 97.4 degrees. Its cycle is 95 minutes and 29 seconds.

The scientific and technological satellite is fitted with survey and communications devices essential for the observation of the earth.

The successful launch of the satellite is a proud fruition of the Workers’ Party of Korea’s policy of attaching importance to the science and technology. It is also an event of great turn in developing the country’s science, technology and economy by fully exercising the independent right to use space for peaceful purposes.

At a time when great yearnings and reverence for Kim Jong Il pervade the whole country, its scientists and technicians brilliantly carried out his behests to launch a scientific and technological satellite in 2012, the year marking the 100th birth anniversary of President Kim Il Sung.

UPDATE 1 (2013-12-8): The Unha 3, 3-2 rocket launches costs as much as a year of food supplies. According to the Hankyoreh:

The Ministry of Unification estimated the cost of North Korea’s two rocket launches this year to be nearly equivalent to a year’s worth of food for the country.

An official with the ministry told reporters on Dec. 6 that North Korea had spent a total of US$1.34 billion on rocket launches since the Kim Jong-un regime took power this in April of this year.

“This is enough money to buy a year’s worth of food for North Korea [5.3 million tons of corn], and we hope North Korea will put it toward solving its peoples’ food shortage,” the official said.

The official broke down the costs into US$400 million for building the launch site in Dongchang Village, US$600 million for the two launches, US$300 million to build rocket equipment and facilities, and US$42 million for propaganda idolization of the Kim dynasty.

This comes after recent – and much higher – Ministry of National Defense estimates that North Korea spent US$1.74 billion on missile development and US$1.1 billion-1.5 billion on nuclear development for a total of US$2.8 billion-3.2 billion.

The North Korean food demand for one year is equivalent to 5.3 million tons of corn, which is valued at US$1.5 billion according to international market rates. The country’s annual food shortfall is estimated at one million tons, or about US$300 million.

By this standard, the total of US$1.34 billion would be nearly equal to the annual cost of food and enough to cover the shortfall for four to five years.

Analysts said the ministry’s aim in comparing the rocket development costs with the North Korean food situation was to highlight the immorality of the regime in Pyongyang.

ORIGINAL POST (2012-12-7): David Wright has created a Google Earth file which shows the rocket trajectory we expect from the DPRK’s fourth launch. Download the file and learn more here.

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