The Joongang Ilbo (중앙 일보) reports a Korean government source stating that hitherto North Korea has fallen into the IRBM range of missile capable nations because of its failure to achieve sufficient third stage propulsion. Technical problems thereafter, a caustic reception by harried regional neighbours, and (conceivably) the two Kims meeting in 2000 and the emergence of The Sunshine Policy -though unable to prevent a nuclear test in 2005- might all have contributed to the 11 year hiatus in test launching. Unless the launch threats are mere bluster, it is unlikely the north would countenance risking a second failure.
I’ve translated the first paragraph.
“At that time it failed because it couldn’t hold out for 7 more seconds. The issue this time is whether they have passed the necessary technological threshold.”
So says an official at the heart of the South Korean government’s North Korean information gathering organ with regard to its moves toward a test launch of the Taepodong II missile. The authorities, who are maintaining watch of the base in Musandanri in north Hamgyeong province, are talking about whether or not the north can achieve sufficient third stage propulsion if they launch. According to the same source, the August 98 launch of a Taepodong I exploded after burning for 20 seconds in stage 3 propulsion. The results of close analysis by American and Korean authorities concluded that if it had burned for 27 seconds it would have been possible for it to enter into satellite orbit. Ultimately it was unable to last 7 more seconds and stopped at stage 2 1620km propulsion. Because of this it was decided that North Korea’s long range missile capacity was in the 2000km Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile class.