N. Korea developing missile capable of targeting U.S.

Friday, September 12, 2003

WASHINGTON -- Officials in the Bush administration have evidence that North Korea has been using Russian technology to develop a new intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching targets in the continental United States, an administration official said Thursday.

The official, asking not to be publicly identified, estimated the potential range at 9,400 miles. The distance from the North Korean capital of Pyongyang to San Francisco is about 5,500 miles.

In theory at least, the new missile could strike any target on U.S. soil, the official said.

There had been some indications that North Korea planned to exhibit the missile -- as well as models from the country's existing system -- during its National Day festivities on Tuesday, but it did not do so, the official said.

American officials have raised the issue with Russian government officials, who indicated surprise and disapproval of the activity, the Bush administration official said.

According to the official, the missile is based on Russia's SSN6, a Soviet-era, submarine-launched ballistic missile.

Two weeks ago, officials from North Korea and the United States, along with, China, South Korea, Japan and Russia, met in Beijing to discuss ways of surmounting an impasse over the North's nuclear weapons system.

The Bush administration has not made clear the extent to which North Korea's missile program will be a part of that six-nation process. A new meeting is expected to be held next month.

North Korea has maintained a moratorium on missile tests since 1998.

But Iran is believed to have been testing missiles based on technology imported from North Korea, the official said.

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