Monday, December 13, 2004

The Case Against North Korea Understated, Not Overstated

Last Thursday, considerable media attention was given to the leaking of a report, to be published in Foreign Affairs by Selig Harrison, that claimed the U.S. was exaggerating the nuclear capability of North Korea. In today's Defense & Foreign Affairs, Gregory R. Copley, Editor, Global Information System, claims that Harrison's conclusion is incorrect and that if the Bush Administration has misstated North Korea's nuclear capabilities, the error has been to substantially understate the progress of the regime's nuclear programs.

Harrison claimed that the Bush Administration had presented a worst-case scenario as a certainty and distorted its intelligence to exaggerate the danger that Pyongyang is secretly making uranium-based nuclear weapons. Harrison also stated that there was no evidence to support the CIA's claim in 2002 that the DPRK had acquired large quantities of fissile materials.

GIS/Defense & Foreign Affairs points to the exercises the DPRK ran in September 2004 to test its national command authority capabilities and claims they demonstrate that the regime has more nuclear weapons than the minimum required for a first-strike capability. The exercises showed that the DPRK was preparing for an ongoing nuclear conflict by testing its national-level command and control system under operational conditions.

In previous operations, the DPRK's approach was to test a launch that would be an absolute first-strike, using all available systems at the initiation of a conflict. Such an exercise only requires a coordinated launch order. Now, the command and control being exercised involves dispersed elements of strategic missile battalions, each battalion equipped with 12 mobile launchers, and each launcher supported by a reload vehicle with two additional No-Dong missiles. This exercise showed that the DPRK was preparing for a second-strike and follow-on strike operations, and had the capability of carry out a coordinated and extended operation from random launch sites. The evidence of irregular activity was noted at 10 bases, each of which could support launches from nearby positions, thereby evading preemptive enemy destruction of the bases and thwarting the prevention of the launch.

By GIS estimates, the DPRK now probably has as many as 18 deployed or deployable warhead for its No-Dong strategic missiles and its Taepo-Dong longer-range series of ballistic missiles. This means that the DPRK has at least one fully-operational, nuclear equipped No-Dong battalion ready for operations against South Korea and Japan, and at least half a battalion of nuclear equipped Taepo-Dong missiles that can reach U.S. targets in Guam, Hawaii and Alaska.

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|| headland, 1:40 AM


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