23 Jul 2006

North Korean Missile Tests Successful?

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China Confidential reports that

a delegation of visiting Iranians observed the tests, which seem to have been conducted as part of a simulated response to a US air attack. The long-range Taepondong-2 missile that plunged intact into the Sea of Japan–after staying aloft for nearly two minutes and not 40 seconds as initially reported by the US–was meant to simulate a nuclear weapon strike on US allies–probably Japan–or assets. Two or three intermediate-range ballistic missiles were also fired, as China Confidential reported yesterday, in addition to three or four short-range missiles.

US, Japanese, and Israeli analysts believe the Iranian contingent–which traveled to North Korea via Beijing–included scientists, technicians, and 10 or more Iranian Revolutionary Guards officers, including members of the elite Partisans of the Mahdi group. Sources say the Iranians paid for the tests and were keen to observe the results as Tehran’s strategic and tactical missile system was built by North Koreans, using Chinese designs. Iran’s Islamist leadership is apparently convinced that the US intends to attack it–directly or through Israel.

Sources say the Iranians and their North Korean hosts were satisfied with the test results. Contrary to media reports, the exercise was successful.

In a later posting, CR argues that Kim Jong-Il is attempting to play the nuclear card, as Fidel Castro did in 1962, to extort a permanent non-invasion pledge from the United States.

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