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North Korea Missile Test Shows that Program is Developing Faster Than Expected

South Korea’s defense minister said that the latest North Korean ballistic missile test shows that Pyongyang’s missile program is developing faster than expected, Reuters reported Tuesday.

Han Min-koo, speaking to his nation’s parliament, said that North Korea’s test of the Hwasong-12 rocket was “successful,” and explained that the missile “is considered an intermediate range ballistic missile (IRBM)of enhanced caliber.” An IRBM has a range up to 3,000 to 4,000 kilometers (1,860 to 2,485 miles).

When asked if the launch indicated that North Korea’s missile program was developing faster than expected, Han responded, “yes.”

North Korea claimed that the test proved that it had developed a missile with the capability to carry a “large-size heavy nuclear warhead.” The nation’s ambassador to China said that it would continue to carry out such tests “any time, any place.”

North Korea Hwasong-12 missile reached an altitude of 2,111.5 kilometers (1,312 miles), CNN reported. If accurate, it would be the highest of any of North Korea’s recent missile launches. Because of the height, the Hwasong-12 did not travel as far as it could have.

“North Korea’s latest successful missile test represents a level of performance never before seen from a North Korean missile,” according to John Schilling, an aerospace engineer who wrote his assessment for the U.S. Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University.

The trajectory of the Hwasong-12 showed that it would have been capable of reaching Guam, where the United States maintains the U.S. Andersen Air Force Base, which is located 3,500 kilometers (2,200 miles) away from North Korea, according to Schilling.

A recent failed underwater missile launch by Iran had the U.S. again looking at the military cooperation between Iran and North Korea. The missile had been launched by a “midget” submarine, which according to U.S. defense officials is the same class as North Korea’s Yono submarine.

A ballistic missile tested by Iran last summer is believed to be based on the design of the North Korean Musudan missile. The Musudan is one of the most advanced missiles that Pyongyang has tested successfully.

Defense experts say that North Korea’s Taepodong missile resembles Iran’s Shahab missile.

In December of last year, satellite photographs captured the image of a North Korean underground missile silo that resembled a known silo in Iran. This suggested that the two rogue nations shared the technology. While the photographs were not deemed absolute proof of collaboration between the two nations, they suggested that cooperation is taking place.

In a paper published in late February, Lt. Col. (ret.) Dr. Refael Ofek and Lt. Col. (res.) Dr. Dany Shoham wrote that Iran may very well be outsourcing its military nuclear research to North Korea.

Looking at evidence that the two nations shared ballistic missile technology, Ofek and Shoham stated, “this kind of strategic, military-technological collaboration is more than merely plausible. It is entirely possible, indeed likely, that such a collaboration is already underway.”

[Photo: CBS News / YouTube ]