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The Next North Korean Threat: Killer Missiles for All

In this op-ed, featured in The Wall Street Journal, NPEC's Executive Director and Zachary Keck examine the security implications of North Korea's recent test of a 300-1,000 kilometer range Scud missile with a maneuvering reentry vehicle. The piece analyzes how the further spread of this missile technology to hostile nations and terror groups threatens the security of the United States and its allies and what the U.S. should do about it. 

Jul 31, 2017
AUTHOR: Henry Sokolski & Zachary Keck

Kim Jong Un is Going Ballistic in More Ways Than One 

North Korea has developed advanced short-range weapons and is almost certain to export them.

By Henry Sokolski and Zachary Keck

Among the many types of missiles North Korea is perfecting is a short-range system that Kim Jong Un is almost certain to export. Although not as worrisome as the intercontinental ballistic missile Pyongyang tested last Friday, this weapon has a highly accurate front end optimized to knock out overseas U.S. and allied bases, Persian Gulf oil fields, key Israeli assets and eventually even commercial shipping and warships. The good news is there’s still time to halt the system’s proliferation, but only if we act quickly.

The missile in question is an advanced version of a Scud, a 185- to 620-mile-range missile that has been in use world-wide for decades. What makes the version North Korea just tested so different is that it has a maneuvering re-entry vehicle, or MaRV, which allows the missile’s warhead to maneuver late in flight both to evade missile defenses and achieve pinpoint accuracy. China, Russia, the U.S. and South Korea have all tested MaRVs but decided, so far, not to export them. Iran has also tested a MaRV, raising questions about Tehran’s possible cooperation with Pyongyang.

The worry now is how far and quickly this technology might spread. Pyongyang has already sold ballistic missiles to seven countries, including Iran, Syria and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. These sales generate precious hard currency for the Kim regime, which is otherwise difficult to come by as Washington continues to ratchet up sanctions.

Pyongyang will have no trouble finding customers. While only Iran or Pakistan might consider purchasing a North Korean ICBM, 15 countries besides North Korea already possess older Scud missile systems they might want to upgrade. Getting a MaRV version would be an affordable way to threaten targets that previously could have been knocked out only by a nuclear warhead or scores of missiles...

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The Nonproliferation Policy Education Center (NPEC), is a 501 (c)3 nonpartisan, nonprofit, educational organization
founded in 1994 to promote a better understanding of strategic weapons proliferation issues. NPEC educates policymakers, journalists,
and university professors about proliferation threats and possible new policies and measures to meet them.
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