How did Pyongyang pass the chronically elusive threshold of completing a three-stage rocket test and placing a satellite in orbit?
Cooperation between North Korea and Iran has been a critical — yet under examined — enabler of the recent success. What started as a transactional relationship, where Iran provided much-needed cash to North Korea in return for missile parts and technology, has evolved into an increasingly effective partnership. The time has come to view their previously independent ballistic missile programs as two sides of the same coin.
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Although sporadic cooperation between North Korea and Iran on missile development has been well documented, analysts viewed this interaction largely through the lens of serial commercial transactions. The conventional wisdom was that cash-starved North Korea found a lucrative client in Iran. As a result, analysts tended to view the two pariahs’ long-range missile development programs as largely independent endeavors. However, North Korea’s sudden success on December 12th was not the result of good fortune but rather was the fruition of its increasing institutional cooperation with Iran. …