North Korea was making progress on an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of delivering a first-generation nuclear warhead to the continental United States, a US think tank said yesterday.
The 38 North website of Johns Hopkins University's US-Korea Institute said that ICBM mock-ups seen at recent military parades in Pyongyang were "less fake" than originally believed.
Numerous experts had ridiculed the models of North Korea's road-mobile KN-08 ICBM seen last year and in July.
At least one aerospace engineer labelled them technically preposterous and a "big hoax".
An analysis posted by 38 North disagreed, saying they were consistent with the ongoing development of a missile with a limited intercontinental ability using only existing North Korean technology. The analysis was co-written by non-proliferation expert Jeffrey Lewis and aerospace engineer John Schilling.
The authors noted that glaring discrepancies in KN-08 mock-ups displayed last year had largely disappeared by the time of the July parade.
And the new arrangement of welds and rivets was similar to that seen on recovered debris from North Korea's Unha-3 rocket, which successfully placed a satellite in orbit in December.
In a separate, technical paper published in Science and Global Security, Schilling stressed that the KN-08 was still very much a missile in development.
"The lack of flight testing strongly suggests that operational deployment is still months or years in the future," the engineer said. An initial test of the KN-08 could come at any time, Schilling added.