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New North Korean missile tested in Iran

Could threaten Guam, but not continental US

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Reports are emerging that a new North Korean ballistic missile may have been test-fired from a site in Iran.

The new weapon, reportedly dubbed 'Musudan' by intelligence analysts, after the well-known North Korean missile facility, was first seen during a military parade in North Korea last month. No photography was allowed at the parade, but media reports have suggested that US spy satellites spotted a previously unknown rocket, perhaps with a range of 5,000 km.

Now it appears that the new intermediate-range missile has been tested from Iranian territory, rather than North Korean. The two countries are believed to have been cooperating on missile technology for some time.

The new Musudan weapon is believed to be longer-ranging than North Korea's Taepodong-1, and could hit American territory at Guam, but wouldn't be able to reach the continental US. The triple-stage version of the Taepodong-2 was assessed by the Pentagon's Missile Defence Agency in January as much more dangerous, with a potential range of 15,000km. This would put US homeland territory firmly under the North Korean footprint. However, the most recent Taepodong-2 test, in May last year, was a failure.

If the reports are correct, this latest test doesn't indicate any major new threat. The new Musudan missile isn't exceptionally capable, and there isn't any firm indication that it can carry a nuclear warhead yet, supposing one were available.

Nonetheless, these reports do serve to confirm the strength of the cooperative weapons-research axis between Iran and North Korea. ®

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