Now Asahi Shimbun reports (full text in comments) that “North Korea unveiled the new missile loaded on a trailer at the military parade held in Pyongyang on 25 April to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Korean People’s Army. … According to a US explanation, North Korea converted the “SSN-6” submarine-launched ballistic missile, which the former Soviet military deployed in late 1960s, into a land-based missile.”
Chris Nelson’s eponymous Nelson Report has the best coverage of anybody in the biz about the missile, which Asahi claims is called the Musudan-1 after the first location it was spotted:
N. KOREA…it’s taken a week or so, but S. Korean and Japanese press accounts of what appears to be a new, long range N. Korean missile appear to be taken seriously on this side of the Pacific, although there has been no official comment.
The Asahi reports that an April 25 parade in Pyongyang showed for the first time, perhaps as many as a dozen single-stage, solid fuel missiles … the authorities would not allow any photographs, and this being N. Korea, no one had a cell phone photo, or at least, no one took one which has made it out of the country!
But from what’s being reported, the missiles would appear to be the 5,000 kilometer range IRBM’s which have been discussed, for some time, in public testimony by US military and intelligence officials.
The new rocket is dubbed the “Musudan-ri”, from it’s apparent base, but, as our experts note, below, it is not felt that an actual test has taken place…despite last summer’s big day, when several types of DPRK missiles were fired into the ocean.
A friend who pays very close attention to this sort of DPRK capability sends the following, unclassified remark:
“To my knowledge, there has not been a test of this missile, so we can’t assess its capabilities, except by extrapolation (this assumes that reports of its lineage are correct). So this is what could await us. The NKs often like to reveal what they could do, if negotiations flounder or even unravel. But if Asahi’s take is accurate, this could be a far more potent delivery system than what NK presently has available to it—assuming it works.”
Another friend offers an in-depth assessment, strictly unclassified, based on experience, prior Administration public testimony, and the Asia-based reporting, and suggests caution before saying the DPRK has a submarine-capable new weapon, using an old Soviet model, the SS-N-6:
“The detail about the name of the missile—‘Musudan’—rings true. The US intelligence community has been in the habit of naming NK missiles by villages close to the main NK test facility: Nodong, Taepodong, and Musudan-ri are the closest three inhabited places. The NKs themselves have other names for their missiles, not all of which are known to us.
The choice of a new ‘village name’ also seems to indicate that the intelligence community thinks it is a qualitatively different missile. It is less likely that the missile is deployed at Musudan-ri. It’s a very austere place. To my knowledge, it’s a test site only, probably not even manned full-time. There do not appear to be suitable facilities there for such things. The area has been subject to commercial space photography quite a bit, so you’d think a full-scale missile base would have been noticed. Such things have been spotted elsewhere—recall earlier reports about Kittaeryong.
I cling to some residual skepticism about the SS-N-6 angle. Supposedly, a new missile derived from Soviet technology was spotted by the U.S. in 2003, but with the exception of a totally mysterious label that first appeared in the German press (‘BM-25’) no name popped up attached to it—until now.
I’d still prefer to wait for a missile test before saying that this is a real device, but have to say that this is the most credible account of such a weapon that we’ve yet seen.”
I really didn’t know what picture went with this post, but Dan Pinkston sent along the above. I could make up some half-assed justification, like how the SS-N-6 is kinda bottle-shaped. But really, I just thought the picture was rad.