Every time I think about shuttering the blog for good, someone is always kind enough to write or say something that reminds me why I started the infernal thing in the first place. Today’s lesson:

This image shows a North Korea Taepodong 1 (One).

It is not/not a Taepodong 2 (Two), not matter what the BBC, JINSA or anybody else sez.

There are two reasons to conclude this. First, the picture was disseminated by the National Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC), which clearly labeled the image as a Taepo Dong 1.

Second—and this is more important—I don’t think the US IC or anyone else has any idea of what a Taepo Dong 2 looks like … because it doesn’t exist, other than as the presumed goal of an alleged North Korean program to develop a larger, follow-on to the Taepo Dong 1.

The name is a placeholder to describe the eventual result of ongoing North Korea’s missile work. (If you think of Kant’s essence of a thing and his objection to the ontological argument for the existence of god, that will help). At some point, North Korea may produce a real artifact of the program.

For now, however, North Koream progress since the TD 1 flight test is a matter of conjecture—from DIA noting “many uncertainties remain” about the program in 1999 to the most recent 721 report which describes the TD 2 as potentially capable of reaching parts of the United States with a nuclear-weapon-sized payload and may be ready for flight testing.

I leave you with the March 2006 testimony of General Burwell Bell, Commander USFK:

I’ve looked at this in some detail. The Taepo Dong II and III missiles, as we call them, are of the kind that, at least in theory, could produce intercontinental capability. Up through the late ‘90s, there was a fairly active program in North Korea to develop that missile technology and potentially to test it. In the years since the late ‘90s, the last six, seven years, we have seen very little activity by the North Koreans to actively continue to develop and test long-range missile systems. There’s no doubt in my mind that they have the capability to begin more technological investigation and to begin a regiment to lead to testing and potentially to lead to fielding. But there’s no evidence of it right now.

On the subject of cool North Korean missile pics, this is my favorite.