This image of a North Korean Scud (or Nodong) missile has appeared here before — in black-and-white. Wonk-reader Tal Inbar sent it along to Geoff Forden, who posted it, noting that it appeared to have been taken in the final assembly hall of a DPRK missile facility.
I had forgotten the image, until I started working on this paper about Burma (aka Myanmar). The image is part of a large collection of photographs from a visit by a Burmese military delegation to the DPRK in 2008. Irawaddy and the Democratic Voice of Burma have made available the photographs, as well as a purloined trip report (Burmese|English). (Josh Pollack talks about the implications of these documents in a piece for 38 North, entitled North Korea’s Nuclear Exports: On What Terms?)
The Burmese delegation visited the facility, which the trip report describes as being in a suburb of Pyongyang:
Observations made at the Surface to Surface Missile Factory on 11-28-2008
47. It is located in a suburb in Pyongyang. It produces SCUD missiles. The component producing lines are kept in the underground tunnel. There are also above-ground factory where missile engines are assembled, where missile bodies are produced and assembled, and where complete missiles are assembled. In the factories that produce complete missiles, there are places that produce and assemble SCUD-D and SCUD-E. While SCUD-D can shoot a target up to 700 kilometers away, SCUD-E can shoot up to 1,500 kilometers, and SCUD-F can shoot up to 3,000 kilometers.
I spent a little time last year, working on a paper on North Korea’s missile infrastructure, in which I tried to make an estimate of how many missile-related factories North Korea might have. (Short answer: I have no idea.)
The best summary I found of what little we know about the principal facility believed to be associated with Scud-derivatives, the so-called Pyongyang Pig Factory, was this description by friend-o-wonk Dan Pinkston:
No. 125 Factory (125號 工場), or the so-called “Pyongyang Pig Factory” in northwestern Pyongyang, reportedly produces Hwasŏng, Nodong, and surface-to-ship cruise missiles. Officials from Middle Eastern countries and possibly elsewhere have reportedly visited the factory, but the extent of their tours is unknown. Much of the open source information is based upon the testimony of Ch’oe Ju-hwal, a former KPA colonel who defected to South Korea. However, Ch’oe was not assigned to the factory, and he never served in any missile-related unit; some of the information in his statements could be from other sources or speculative. The so-called Sanŏp-dong (San’ŭm-dong) facility could be the research and design component of the No. 125 Factory, or another name for the same facility.
Specifically, Ch’oe Ju-hwal asserted that the Middle Eastern countries that sent officials were Egypt and Iran. I looked around the suburbs of Pyongyang in Google Earth for a bit, but nothing popped out immediately. As we have discussed before, I am a lousy imagery analyst, so other people may wish to take a look.
I was a little bothered by the trip report’s use of the term “Scud” — which is an American designation for the missile that the North Koreans call Hwasŏng. (The references to the unknown variants Scud-E and Scud-F missiles also bothered me). But, after some consideration, it seems plausible. I’ve been told the the DPRK’s clandestine activities with regard to Pakistan (like Burma, a former British colony) were conducted in impeccable English. And, a colleague reminded me that, when Indian customs officials bordered a North Korean freighter in 1999, they found “ream upon ream of engineers’ drawings labeled ‘Scud B’ and ‘Scud C.’”
English, it’s the language of international commerce!
The list of Scuds is also interesting. The ranges listed for the Scud B, C and D are are all consistent with those in Ballistic and Cruise Missile Threat. Although I initially scratched my head at the Scud E and Scud F, based on range and fuel type the Scud E seems to refer to the Nodong and the SCUD F to the “new IRBM” known as the Musudan. Again, Nodong and Musudan are US designations based on place. (For more on the Musudan range, see David Wright’s posts over all All Things Nuclear: Range Estimates for the Musudan Missile|More on Musudan Range Estimates.)
The whole report is really worth a read and the photographs, well, wow! Here is Jon Byon Ho — North Korea’s proliferator-in-chief — exchanging gifts with Burmese General Shwe Mann. Feel free to submit your own caption; I’ve imagined a couple of one-liners from Jon:
“This is the same plate I gave General Suleiman just before the Israelis shot him in the face.”
“It’s actually a ring magnet. We smuggled 10,000 of the damn things through Dubai before deciding to go with ball bearings. Now we just give them away to guests.”
“What do you mean it has an inscription in Urdu? I thought it was just a pattern. Ok, so I admit — I re-gifted it.”