Chronology of North Korea’s Missile Trade and Developments: 1996-1998

CNS Resources on North Korea’s Ballistic Missile Program:


North Korea’s Ballistic Missile Program

January 1996

The US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian Affairs, Thomas Rubbard, contacts North Korea to request a meeting to discuss missile proliferation issues. North Korea agrees to the meeting in principle but says that economic sanctions will have to be loosened before Pyongyang agrees on a date for the talks.

Evan Medeiros, Arms Control Today, February 1996, p.25.

5 January 1996

A report obtained from a “secret” Russian foreign ministry meeting states that North Korea’s Nodong-1 is “not useful as a military weapon,” based on its poor performance in all areas during a test-firing in the East Sea in 1993.

Yu Min, Seoul Sinmun, 5 January 1996, p.2.

2 February 1996

CIA Director John Deutch tells a US Senate Select Committee that North Korea is developing long-range missiles. The United States should focus on stopping North Korea from acquiring guidance-and-control technology that could make its long-range missiles more accurate and lethal.

John M. Deutch, CIA,, 2 February 1996.

6 April 1996

According to a South Korean foreign ministry official, South Korea and the United States will seek limits on the transfer and indigenous development of North Korea’s missile technology in negotiations between the United States and North Korea scheduled for April 1996.

Yonhap (Seoul), 6 April 1996; in FBIS-EAS-96-068, 6 April 1996.

11 April 1996

A Pentagon report titled, Proliferation: Threats and Response, highlights North Korea’s ballistic missile and other weapons of mass destruction programs.

Bill Gertz, Washington Times, 12 April 1996, p.A3.

17 April 1996

Jane’s Defence Weekly reports that North Korea may have suspended its Nodong-1 program for technical and financial reasons. North Korea continues to develop the long-range Taepodong-1 and -2 missiles, with the first test for the Taepodong-1 expected in 1997.

Lennox Duncan, Jane’s Defence Weekly, 17 April 1996, pp.40, 43-44.

21 April 1996

North Korean and US officials meet in Berlin to discuss missile proliferation issues. North Korean officials describe the talks as “comprehensive” although both delegations refuse to offer details.

Reuters, 21 April 1996.

8 May 1996

Senior director for defense policy and arms control at the White House Robert G. Bell says that a US National Intelligence Estimate which concluded that no new strategic missile system will threaten the continental United States reflects a consensus within the US intelligence community. Bell admits, however, that the intelligence community’s knowledge of North Korea’s Taepodong-2 program is incomplete.

Aerospace Daily, 9 May 1996, pp.233-234.

22 May 1996

Syria offers North Korea 100,000 tons of food in exchange for missiles.

Yonhap (Seoul), 6 June 1996; in FBIS-EAS-96-117, 6 June 1996.

24 May 1996

The United States imposes sanctions on North Korea and Iran for violation of the US Arms Export Control Act and the Missile Technology Control Regime. The sanctions, effective 24 May 1996, prohibit US companies from engaging in missile-technology related exports, or contracts to export with Changgwang Sinyong Company (North Korea) and the Ministry of Defense Armed Forces Logistics, and the State Purchasing Office of Iran.

Federal Register, Vol. 61, No. 114, 12 June 1996, p.29785.

4 June 1996

US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian Affairs, Winston Lord announces that the United States is willing to lift sanctions imposed on North Korea, provided the latter agrees to terminate its missile production and export programs. According to Lord, North Korea was made aware of this policy in April 1996.

Bill Gertz, Washington Times, 5 June 1996, p.A20.

21 June 1996

According to CIA sources, North Korea delivers seven shiploads of Scud-C missiles to Egypt between March and April 1996. The missile shipments are part of a 1980s licensing agreement between Egypt and North Korea.

Bill Gertz, Washington Times, 21 June 1996, pp.A1, A22.

August 1996

Syria ships Soviet-era manufactured, 70km-range SS-21 missiles to North Korea. If North Korea is able to reverse-engineer the SS-21’s sophisticated guidance package, it could use the technology to improve the accuracy of its Scud missiles.

Wyn Bowen, Tim McCarthy, and Holly Porteous, Jane’s IDR Extra, February 1997, pp.1-4, at pp.1-3.

25 September 1996

South Korea’s Unification Ministry issues a statement saying that North Korea produces approximately 100 Scud-B and -C missiles annually, and has exported approximately 400 missiles to countries in the Middle East. Between 1980 to 1993, arms exports accounted for approximately 30 percent of all North Korean exports. Scud missile sales are valued at about $500 million annually.

Reuters, 25 September 1996.

16 October 1996

Japanese news agency Jiji and NHK television report that North Korea is planning to test-launch a 1,000km-range missile in the Sea of Japan. According to Jiji, military representatives from Iran are present at the launch site to observe the missile’s performance prior to purchase.

Reuters, 16 October 1996.

8 November 1996

US state department spokesman Nicholas Burns says that North Korea has decided not to conduct a missile test.

US Department of State,, 8 November 1996.

December 1996

Former CIA Director Robert Gates tells the US Senate Intelligence Committee that North Korea is having problems developing its Taepodong class of ballistic missiles. North Korea will have to develop a new propulsion system, and improved guidance and controls for the missile. Gates notes that economic, technical, and manufacturing problems in North Korea’s infrastructure make the development of this new class of missiles unlikely. The US intelligence community is confident that the first flight tests of the missile will provide at least five years warning before deployment.

Barbara Starr, Jane’s Defence Weekly, 11 December 1996, p.10.

March 1997

Ecuador’s Vistazo magazine reports that Peru intends to acquire Taepodong missiles from North Korea and is negotiating with international weapons firms to purchase eight missile launchers and 32 missiles. Peruvian military sources deny the report.

Voz de los Andes (Quito), 20 March 1998; in FBIS-LAT-97-080, 21 March 1997.

April 1997

US satellite reconnaissance shows that North Korea has deployed three Nodong-1 ballistic missiles along the coast of the Sea of Japan. Seven additional Nodong-1s are expected to be deployed shortly.

Sankei Shimbun (Seoul), 11 April 1997; in FBIS-EAS-97-100.

May 1997

Citing “technical reasons,” North Korea calls off talks with the United States regarding its ballistic missile sales to Iran and Syria.

Korea Times (Seoul),; in FBIS-TAC-97-127, 7 May 1997.

6 May 1997

According to US military sources, North Korea has upgraded the warhead section of its Nodong missile. The missile’s payload has been reduced from 1,000kg capacity to several hundred kilograms, making the missile less likely to break up on re-entry. The reduced payload will still allow the missile to carry chemical weapon payloads, but not a nuclear one. A Japanese defense official, however, cast doubt on the US information.

Kyodo (Tokyo), 7 June 1997; in FBIS-EAS-97-126, 6 May 1997.

23 May 1997

North Korea tests its new AG-1 anti-ship cruise missile. Pentagon sources describe the missile as using “unimpressive, old technology” from Russian Styx and Chinese Silkworm cruise missiles.

James R. Asker, Aviation Week & Space Technology, 7 July 1997, p.21.

28 May 1997

US intelligence sources surmise that North Korea may have deployed its Nodong-1 ballistic missiles prematurely, as the missile lack a reliable guidance system. US officials also believe that the principal difference between the Nodong-1 and -2 is the fuel supply system. The Nodong-2 may employ a redesigned fuel system to allow for longer burn times.

Paul Beaver, Jane’s Defence Weekly, 28 May 1997, p.4.

11 June 1997

The United States and North Korea begin talks in New York over the role played by the latter in the proliferation of ballistic missiles.

Current News Early Bird, 11 June 1997, p.20.

13 June 1997

The United States and North Korea end the second round of talks over the latter’s production and export of ballistic missiles with no significant agreement.

Yonhap (Seoul), 14 June 1997; in FBIS-TAC-97-164, 13 June 1997.

August 1997

The United States grants political asylum to two North Korean defectors, Chang Sung Gil, ambassador to Egypt, and Chang Sung Ho, a trade envoy in France. North Korea cancels missile talks with the United States.

Reuters, 27 August 1997.

September 1997

According to unidentified US intelligence sources, Egypt reportedly requested spare parts for the guidance and control systems of its Scud missiles from North Korea in May 1997. Egypt received seven shipments for its Scud-C missiles from North Korea between March and April 1997.

In late 1996, DPRK repaired missile-production equipment that it had previously supplied to Egypt.

Bill Gertz, Washington Times, 17 September 1997, pp.1, 10.

September 1997

According to an Israeli intelligence report, Iran’s Shahab-3 and Shahab-4 ballistic missile programs have benefited from North Korea’s assistance. Iran, according to the report, has received “at least a dozen” Nodong missiles from North Korea.

Arms Control Today, September 1997.

22 September 1997

The Japanese paper Yomiuri Shimbun reports that US reconnaissance satellites detected the deployment of North Korea’s Nodong ballistic missile for a possible test.

Washington Times, 22 September 1997, p.A15.

27 September 1997

North Korea begins deploying military units with equipment designed to transport the Nodong missile. According to US Pacific Command Admiral, Joseph Prueher, the preparations indicate either deployment, training exercises, or exercises for deception. According to Prueher, no missiles were sighted.

Bill Gertz, Washington Times, 27 September 1997, p.A3.

November 1997

China and North Korea send a joint-team of technicians to Iran to work on the final stages of the latter’s ballistic missile program. The program involves more than 100 Chinese and North Korean technicians with the goal of giving Iran the indigenous capability to build ballistic missiles by the middle of 1998. The technicians are working to extend the range of the Nodong missile beyond 1,000 miles.

Con Coughlin, Washington Times, 23 November 1997, pp.1, 5.

April 1998

US government officials report that Pakistan’s new 1,500km-range Ghauri intermediate-range ballistic missile has been developed with technology supplied by North Korea. The Ghauri is believed to be a liquid fueled version of North Korea’s Nodong ballistic missile.

Tim Weiner, New York Times, 11 April 1998.

6 May 1998

The United States places sanctions on North Korea’s Changgwang Sinyong Corporation, it’s sub-units, successors, and affiliated companies, for aiding Pakistan in the development of the 1,500km Ghauri intermediate-range ballistic missile.

Indian Express,, 6 May 1998.

June 1998

Pentagon officials believe that North Korea has operationalized its Nodong ballistic missile. The Nodong was tested only once in 1993.

Bill Gertz, Washington Times, 10 June 1998, p.9.

16 June 1998

North Korea announces that it will continue developing, testing, and exporting ballistic missiles.

Kevin Sullivan, Washington Post, 17 June 1998, p.1.

31 August 1998

North Korea conducts the first flight test of its two-stage Taepodong-1 IRBM. The missile was fired from the Hwadaegun Missile Test Facility on the east coast, approximately 100km south of the port city of Ch’ongjin. The missile flew east across the Sea of Japan. The first stage separated 300km east of the launch site. The second stage continued over the main Japanese Island of Honshu, and impacted in the Pacific Ocean 330km east of the Japanese port city of Hachinohe, after flying approximately 1,380km.

Joseph Bermudez, Jane’s Defence Weekly, 9 September 1998.

4 September 1998

According to the KCNA, North Korea did not test a ballistic missile on 31 August 1998. Instead, North Korea launched a satellite via a multi-stage rocket into orbit. The purpose of the launch is to: (1) confirm the calculation basis for future satellite launches and (2) encourage the Korean people in the efforts to build a powerful socialist state under the wise leadership of General Secretary Kim Jong Il.

KCNA (Pyongyang), 4 September 1998.

15 September 1998

The United States confirms that North Korea tried and failed to place a satellite in orbit during its rocket launch on 31 August 1998. US state department spokesman James Rubin says that the military implications on the test are the same regardless of whether North Korea launched a missile or a satellite. North Korea has demonstrated the capability for delivering weapon payloads against surface targets at increasing ranges. According to Rubin, the United States regards the test as “a threat to US allies, friends, and forces in the region.”

AP, 15 September 1998.

15 September 1998

The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) announces that North Korea successfully launched its first artificial satellite into orbit via a multi-stage rocket. The satellite is equipped with necessary sounding instruments and is currently transmitting melodies of North Korean revolutionary hymns at 27 MHz. The purpose of the satellite launch is to (1) contribute to North Korea’s scientific research for peaceful use of outer space, (2) confirm the calculation basis for future satellite launches and (3) encourage the Korean people in efforts to build a powerful socialist state under the wise leadership of General Secretary Kim Jong Il.

Washington Post, 15 September 1998, p.A13; AP, 15 September 1998.

15 September 1998

US State Department spokesman James Rubin announces that North Korea tried but failed to place a satellite in orbit during its 31 August 1998 rocket launch. The fact that the satellite disintegrated could explain why the United States failed to track the satellite.

AP, 15 September 1998.

16 September 1998

US intelligence agencies track debris from North Korea’s failed satellite launch, nearly 4,000 miles into the Pacific Ocean. According to a US official, the satellite broke into several pieces just seconds before reaching orbit, indicating that a “warhead could potentially have one that far.” US Pentagon spokesman Kenneth Bacon says the solid-fueled three stage missile is estimated to have a range of 2,408 to 3,720 miles. Initial estimates place at the range of the Taepodong-1 at 1,000 miles.

US Representative Curt Weldon says that North Korea’s satellite program has come “as an extremely troubling technical surprise,” which indicates that North Korea’s missile program is much farther along than that which US intelligence had suspected.

Bill Gertz, Washington Times, 16 September 1998, p.1.

16 September 1998

North Korea and the United States agree to resume missile talks from 1 October 1998.

Jane’s Defence Weekly, 16 September 1998.

26 September 1998

North Korea says “whether the launch of our artificial satellite is used for military purposes or not, entirely depends on the attitude of the United States and other hostile forces.”

BBC, 26 September 1998; in Inquisit, 26 September 1998,

1 October 1998

North Korea and the United States begin missile talks. The United States offers North Korea improved relations if it restrains its missile tests and exports. North Korea rejects US demands claiming that missiles are tools for self-defense and it is the natural independent right of a sovereign state to defend itself.

Chicago Tribune, 4 October 1998.

2 October 1998

US State Department spokesman James Rubin says that North Korea could face “very negative consequences” if it conducts further tests or exports long-range missiles. Rubin expresses concern over North Korea’s export of Scud missiles to Iran, Syria, and Pakistan.

Inquisit, 2 October 1998,

20 November 1998

US intelligence and diplomatic sources say that North Korea is building two new launch facilities, at Yongo dong and Chiha-ri for its medium-range Taep’o-dong-1 missile. It is further alleged that North Korea has already completed the bunkers for propellant fuel at the Yongo dong site and that the facility could become operational as early as 1999. A similar facility is also being built at Chiha-ri, which is the technical support base for North Korea’s Scud missile brigade.

Washington Post, 20 November 1998,

9 December 1998

US intelligence sources say that North Korea may launch another Taep’o-dong-1 missile in December 1998. It is said that North Korea is moving parts of a Taep’o-dong-1 missile from storage to a launch pad. North Korean Vice-Foreign Minister Kim Kye-Gwan says that the planned launch of a Taep’o-dong-1 rocket is not a missile test but part of North Korea’s satellite program. He does not mention when the launch is scheduled.

Times of India, 12 December 1998,; Jane’s Defence Weekly, 9 December 1998.

12 December 1998

A European parliamentary delegation returning from North Korea reports that North Korea is prepared to launch a second satellite.

Kyodo News Service, 12 December 1998; in Lexis-Nexis, 12 December 1998,

17 December 1998

Russian Defense Ministry sources say that a medium-range ballistic missile is to be launched from a North Korean test site on Cape Musudan. The new rocket will have a range of 2,170 miles.

AP, 17 December 1998; in Northeast Asia Peace and Security Network Daily Report, 17 December 1998,

25 December 1998

North Korea warns the United States that it is prepared to launch another medium-range missile. A US CIA source says that the United States has asked North Korea to reconsider future ballistic missile tests.

David E. Singer, New York Times, 26 December 1998,; KCNA (Pyongyang), 25 December 1998,

31 December 1998

US intelligence agencies believe that North Korea appears to have postponed a second test of its long-range Taep’o-dong-1 missile. US intelligence analysts speculate that North Korea probably has a limited number of Taep’o-dong missiles or is waiting for better weather and political conditions.

Bill Gertz, Washington Times, 31 December 1998, p. A4.

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