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Tuesday, 27 July, 1999, 09:19 GMT 10:19 UK
Analysis: Korean missiles threaten region
If you've got it, flaunt it: North Korea shows off its military might
North Korea remains determined to develop a comprehensive missile system despite attempts by the US and others to avert what it believes would be a major regional threat.

Pyongyang is still officially at war with South Korea and for years western analysts have attempted to keep track of its extensive missile development programmes.

After a half century of isolation, North Korea remains one of the world's most militaristic regimes. The manufacture, display and export of military hardware remain a symbol of national virility.

What little wealth the country has is spent on the military and North Korea's army outnumbers that of the South by more than two to one.

Military or civilian projects?

Much of North Korea's technology has been based on Soviet-designed Scud missiles and Pyongyang is believed to have exported versions of these weapons to both sides in the Iran-Iraq war.

A picture of a North Korean test firing
Released picture: But is it a missile or rocket?
Since then, it has developed a family of more advanced missiles - the No-Dong One - with a range of up to 1,000km and more recently the Taepo-dong which could ultimately have a much greater range.

The US, Russia, and China still have perhaps the most elaborate missile and space rocket programmes - with the European Ariane consortium also competing specifically in the satellite-launching market.

But rocket and missile programmes often go hand-in-hand, with one occasionally providing a cover for the other.

Both Washington and Moscow have converted redundant ballistic missile designs into satellite launchers while China has been accused of stealing US rocket technology for its missile programmes.

Israel has launched satellites and has a ballistic missile programme while Iraq claimed in 1989 to have fired a space launch vehicle.

For several years now India has been developing a rocket called the Agni which it maintained was a space research project but which it has almost universally been assumed was a ballistic missile.

There was also concern in the 1980s over a Brazilian programme called Condor, but Brazil abandoned this in the face of US pressure.

For all their advances in the field of actual rocketry, North Korea and other so-called "rogue" states are still thought to lack the most advanced guidance systems.

Nevertheless, fears that North Korean will test a new long-range missile will provide ammunition for those who argue that some states may be collaborating on sensitive missile programmes.

See also:

03 Sep 98 | Asia-Pacific
14 Jan 99 | Asia-Pacific
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