Commission to Assess the Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States
Appendix III: Unclassified Working Papers
China/Japan/Korea: Gerrit Gong, Selig Harrison,
Robert Manning and David Wright
April 2, 1998
On April 2, 1998, SPC hosted a roundtable discussion for the Rumsfeld
Commission to discuss the ballistic missile threat to the United States
from the nations of East Asia. The panel participants included, Dr. Robert
Manning from the Council on Foreign Relations; David C. Wright, from the
Union of Concerned Scientists & MIT's Security Studies Program; CSIS's
Gerrit Gong; and Selig S. Harrison from the Woodrow Wilson Center. This
paper summarizes the roundtable's key points, and highlights areas of
consensus and agreement.
Robert Manning was the only roundtable participant to directly address
China's ballistic missile capabilities. In recent years, China has
attempted to qualitatively improve its strategic rocket forces in terms of
distance and accuracy. Manning argued that China currently has between
12-18 operational nuclear armed ICBM's, but that it is developing the DF-31
and DF-41 ballistic missiles that could be deployed within the next 8-10
years. The DF -31 is reported to have a range of approximately 5000 miles,
while the DF-41 could have a range of up to 8000 miles, thus being able to
strike parts of the United States. In addition, China is attempting to
develop MIRV technology for its ballistic missiles. China has attempted to
obtain Russian SS-18 missile technology which could enhance MIRV
capabilities and provide more sophisticated guidance systems. Although
China has not revealed any intention to increase its nuclear warheads
beyond the 400-450 level, technology improvements could enhance the missile
threat to the United States by China.
In addition to improving its intercontinental forces, China has upgraded
its longer range IRBM's, replacing the CSS-2 with CSS-5 launchers that have
a longer range of about 1300 miles. Manning also stated that there are
indications that Russian and Israeli assistance could help China develop
and deploy cruise missiles before 2010. Manning contends that such a
capability could counter U.S. naval power in the region around the Taiwan
Selig Harrison's presentation provided the most in-depth analysis on
Japan's ballistic missile and space launch capabilities. He concluded that
Japan has developed space launch rockets in its civilian space program that
can quickly be converted into ICBM's rivaling those of the United States.
If converted into an ICBM, Japan's M-5 would give Japan a capability
similar to that of the U.S. MX Peacekeeper with a range of 7,400 miles.
Conversion Japan's J-1 would give the nation an ICBM that can outperform
the Minuteman 3's 8,000 mile range. Harrison concluded that Japan has the
technological capability to modify its SLVs into ICBM's if it wished.
Harrison also argued that Japan's missile capabilities must be assessed in
the context of its civilian nuclear power program. Japan currently uses
breeder reactors for civilian nuclear power purposes, and because of this,
has compiled large stocks of weapons-usable plutonium. Some have reported
that Japan will have 11 to 25 tons of surplus plutonium in five years, and
perhaps as much as 50 tons by 2010. Harrison concluded that if Japan
decides to convert its SLV into MIRV capable delivery vehicles, each
plutonium warhead would weigh about 350 kg, thus allowing the missile to
carry between five and ten warheads, depending on its range. Since Japan is
currently developing guidance and re-entry technology in its space efforts
that can be applied to a missile program, Japan could develop re-entry
technology for its missile force in a matter of months.
Both Harrison and Manning assessed South Korea's present and future
ballistic missile capabilities in their presentations. Over the past two
years, South Korea has actively lobbied the United States to re-negotiate a
long-standing Memorandum of Understanding that sets a limit on the range of
any South Korean missile to 180 km, well below the 300 km range of the
MTCR. Although Seoul has attempted to gain MTCR membership on a number of
occasions, the United States has formally rejected this request each time.
Both men concluded that the United States should remain firm on this issue,
and should avoid transferring any technology to Seoul in support of its
rudimentary space launch program in order to ensure that such technology is
not used to enhance South Korea's missile capabilities.
In addition, all of the participants concurred that Korean unification
could help post unification Korea's ballistic missile and WMD capabilities.
South Korea could well unify its state of the art industrial base with
North Korea's nuclear, chemical, and biological programs, as well as its
intermediate range missile programs.
David Wright provided the most in depth analysis of North Korea's ballistic
missile programs of the roundtable participants. He provided the following
conclusions about North Korea's ballistic missile capabilities:
Short-Range Scud-type missiles
North Korea reverse engineered a Soviet Scud B Missile and began producing
its own version of the missile that could carry a 1000 kg payload 300 km.
In the late 1980's the DPRK developed the longer range Scud Mod-C with a
700 kg warhead and 500 km range. According to reports, this missile has
been sold to both Iran and Syria.
In the late 1980's, the DPRK began development on the No Dong I, a missile
with a range of 1000-1300 km, and a payload of 1000 kg. Wright noted that
the missile is based on Scud technology, and that it is powered by a
cluster of four Scud engines. The missile probably has a detachable
warhead, and has a CEP of 2000-4000 meters, although engine clustering
would reduce its accuracy.
The only test flight of the No Dong has taken place to a range of 500 km,
many analysts agree that it may be used in an act of desperation during a
crisis. The U.S., however, would almost certainly not consider this missile
operational without one full range test. Wright concludes that the missile
has faced serious technical problems. In his view, the lack of Nodong test
flights since 1993 creates a window of opportunity for the United States to
reach a deal with the DPRK before the missile experiences additional test
flights and is sold abroad.
Taepo Dong I and II
The Taepo Dong I has an estimated range/payload of 1500-2000 km/1000 kg and
looks like a Scud second stage and a Nodong first stage. The Taepo Dong II
is reported to have a longer range of 3,500 to 6,000 km. Wright believes
that the missile has a Nodong for a second stage on top of a large
first-stage booster which has the same dimensions as a Chinese DF-3.
He believes that North Korea will face a number of serious technical
hurdles in developing a missile with the range of the Taepo Dong II. First,
the Nodong missile is so heavy that using it as the second stage would
limit the missile's range. Second, using the Nodong as the second stage
would give the Taepo Dong II a large length to diameter ratio, which could
create structural problems during the boost phase. Third, since the Nodong
has four engines, it would be less reliable than the single-engine Scud Mod
C or a single engine stage based on the engine used for the first stage.
Wright concludes that if the DPRK is developing the Taepo Dong version that
has been identified as the missile mockup, the missile does not make
technical sense. This raises serious questions about the technical
competence of North Korean missile engineers, and would suggest that the
program is not as advanced as previously thought. Wright asserted that
North Korea may not have a credible Taepo Dong II program.
Wright also argued that the international community may have considerably
more leverage over North Korea than previously assumed in encouraging it to
make a deal regarding its missile programs. The United States may have the
ability to: force North Korea to end its missile sales to other countries;
encourage it to eliminate its missile program altogether; and, force it to
halt its missile sales, cap its missile program and stop future missile
development, but retain its existing missile capabilities. In addition, the
United States may be able to negotiate a ban on missile test flights in
order to impede development of the DPRK's ballistic missile programs.
Although he did not provide a technical analysis of North Korea's ballistic
missile programs, Selig Harrison asserted that the missile threat from
North Korea has been overblown. He asserted that the economic and political
complications in North Korea have handicapped the development and
production of the Taepo Dong. Harrison also concluded that North Korea
would be willing to bargain away its ballistic missile program in much the
same manner that it gave up its nuclear weapons program, for the right
Robert Manning did not provide an analysis of North Korea's ballistic
missile programs. He did, however, assert that North Korea's proliferation
behavior has been extremely problematic for international nonproliferation
efforts, especially in the Middle East. He stated that there is evidence of
a symbolic relationship in which cooperation with Middle Eastern nations
has facilitated the development of North Korean missile technology, as well
as missile-production capabilities in Syria and Iran.