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North Korea missiles get boost from outside: report

SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea received a huge boost from Soviet technology to develop its ballistic missiles and still relies on foreign suppliers for key components, a report obtained on the weekend said.

A North Korean missile unit takes part in a military parade to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Korean People's Army in Pyongyang in this picture taken April 25, 2007 and released May 30, 2007. North Korea received a huge boost from Soviet technology to develop its ballistic missiles and still relies on foreign suppliers for key components, a report obtained on the weekend said. REUTERS/KOREA NEWS SERVICE

North Korea has built hundreds of ballistic missiles that can strike all of South Korea and most of Japan. Its production and sales of the weapons are considered major security concerns.

“The country is nearly self-sufficient in ballistic missile production, but still relies upon some advanced foreign technologies and components, particularly from overseas,” said the report from Daniel Pinkston, an expert on the North’s missile programs.

Pinkston, a Korean affairs specialist for the International Crisis Group, said in his paper soon to be published by U.S. Army War College’s Strategic Studies Institute that North Korea can build airframes, tanks and other basic missile components.

The impoverished state has set up front companies to buy sensitive missile components overseas such as guidance systems in order to avoid international trade restrictions, the report said.

International pariah North Korea was hit with a new round of sanctions in 2006 after it defied international warnings and launched a series of ballistic missiles in July of that year followed by its first nuclear test three months later.

“International export controls and denial strategies have made it increasingly difficult to procure dual-use items and technologies,” the report said.

North Korea intensified missile production from 1987-1992. Its ability to quickly field new systems with little to no testing indicates it received proven technology from the Soviet Union, which was then the North’s main benefactor, it said.

North Korea has also received help from China and former Soviet states. Yet, despite the assistance, “North Korea’s level of missile development is remarkable given the size and backwardness of (its) economy.”

North Korea has not developed the technology to mount a nuclear warhead on a missile.

“If diplomacy fails to curb the North Korean nuclear program ... scientists and engineers should be expected to surmount their current technical barriers.”

It has worked to develop missile systems to deliver chemical and biological weapons.

North Korea failed to meet an end of 2007 deadline to give a full accounting of its nuclear weapons program as required in an international disarmament-for-aid deal.

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