“Bechtol thinks it unlikely Pyongyang obtained Western technology, so the leading candidates for the source of this missile are Russia and China.”
As Bechtol points out, the North Koreans are adept at stealing weapons tech, buying it, and getting it with the help of rogue scientists and engineers. “All that is certain today is that the North Koreans did not develop this missile system completely on their own,” he told me, “and the missile fired Sunday as a land-based missile and several months ago as an SLBM has almost exactly the same appearance and capabilities as the Chinese JL-1.”
“This is truly dangerous,” Fisher tells me. North Korea has “crossed the line from failure-prone, liquid-engine, long-range missiles to long-range, solid-fuel ones.” And now, having made it to the other side of the threshold, it can make rapid improvements: “We can now expect the North will soon produce solid-fuel, intermediate- and intercontinental-range ballistic missiles and space launch vehicles.”
Moreover, to make matters worse, the Pukguksong-2 is carried on a transporter-erector-launcher, essentially a truck. That means the North Koreans can hide missiles before shooting them.
Given that North Korea and Iran are working together on missiles and nuclear weapons, it won’t be long before Iran has the same technology if it doesn’t have it already.