The North Korean Ballistic Missile Program

  • February 01, 2008
  • Dr Daniel A Pinkston

North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs have drawn international attention for years. In the early 1960s, Pyongyang began to pursue the capability to produce advanced weapons systems, including rockets and missiles. However, foreign assistance and technology, particularly from China and the Soviet Union, were instrumental in the acquisition of these capabilities. The ballistic missile inventory now totals about 800 road-mobile missiles, including about 200 Nodong missiles that could strike Japan. In April 2007, North Korea for the first time displayed two new missiles: a short-range tactical missile that poses a threat to Seoul and U.S. Forces in South Korea, and an intermediate-range missile that could potentially strike Guam. Although North Korea has not demonstrated the ability to produce a nuclear warhead package for its missiles, its missiles are believed to be capable of delivering chemical and possibly biological munitions. North Korean media and government officials claim the country needs a nuclear deterrent to cope with the “hostile policy of the United States,” but Pyongyang has never officially abandoned its objective of “completing the revolution in the south.” Little is known about North Korean military doctrine and the role of its ballistic missiles, but National Defense Commission Chairman Kim Ch?ng-il has ultimate authority over their disposition.