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North Korea Manufactured Most of Its Key Rocket Components, Possesses Considerable Technology
By Hong Jin-su
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Most of the parts in Unha-3, a long-range rocket North Korea launched last December, were confirmed to have been manufactured in North Korea. There were some parts from other countries, but they were commercial items readily available to tourists and not key components. Thus it will be difficult to judge these imported parts as a breach of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR).

On January 21, a military official announced, "An investigation of the debris from North Korea's long-range missile determined that North Korea improved their technology based on countless tests and experiences to successfully launch their long-range missile. Although they did use foreign imports for pressure sensors, some electronic sensors, and wires, other than these, most of the parts appear to have been manufactured in North Korea."

Military authorities collected and analyzed ten pieces of debris from the first stage propellant tank including the oxidizer tank, fuel tank, and engine in the west coast after North Korea launched its long-range rocket on December 12, 2012.

The Navy's Cheonghaejin soldiers are raising the fuel tank of North Korea's long-range rocket Unha-3 onto the deck of a battleship on December 21. The Navy



Domestic agencies including the Intelligence Agency, the Intelligence Command, the National Defense and Science Institute, and the Korea Aerospace Research Institute and U.S. experts took part in the investigation, which was carried out at the National Defense and Science Institute in Daejeon.

North Korea appears to have developed the engine for their rocket based on Iranian technology. The military official said, "They used the Rodong missile [for the first stage propellant], so we can say they virtually adopted the engine from Iran." They also assumed that North Korea produced the aluminum-magnesium alloy (AlMg6) used for the fuel tank and the oxidizer tank.

Originally, North Korea was suspected to have smuggled some key components from overseas, but the military's investigation found no evidence to support this claim. The military official said, "We found less than ten items including a temperature sensor, which were produced from five countries other than North Korea. These imported parts were not key components, but items anyone could buy from a trip to that country. So it would be difficult to say North Korea smuggled the items."

However, he added, "If there were financial transactions such as bank transfers in the process of importing the parts, this holds the potential of violating the UN Security Council resolution 1874. Also these items could be added to the MTCR list of controlled items, so we will have to wait for the results of the UN investigation."

North Korea's rocket technology was found to be crude but highly advanced. The military official said, "The welding was not clean and the quality appeared as though it was made with a hammer, but despite the appearance, the technology was not coarse."

Investigators confirmed that North Korea used red fuming nitric acid (RFNA), an extremely toxic substance, as an oxidizer for the propellant. South Korea's rocket Naro uses liquid oxygen as the oxidizer.

North Korea's long-range rocket, like Naro, used kerosene for fuel. North Korea's rocket had four main engines with four vernier engines attached as directional stabilization devices, and adopted a regenerative cooling system, which uses fuel to cool the engine, for its main engine.

A mild detonating fuse (MDF) was installed for the separation of the rocket. North Korea's first attempt to launch a rocket last April failed in the separation stage, but in December they displayed a more stable technology.

Copyright The Kyunghyang Shinmun. All rights reserved. Reproduction and redistribution without permission absolutely prohibited.

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