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View more articles by Dagyum Ji
Dagyum Ji is a senior NK News correspondent based in Seoul. She previously worked for Reuters TV.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will launch a special investigation to find a link between espionage and several failures of Musudan-type missile launches, a defector-led research institute claimed on Friday.
Kim Jong Un suspects that a series of failed launches may stem from covert actions by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and South Korea’s National Intelligence Service (NIS), North Korea Intellectuals Solidarity (NKIS) said, citing an unnamed high-profile source familiar with the North Korean situation.
The report is impossible to independently verify.
North Korea plans to probe critical but imported missile components including integrated circuit chips, part of the missile flight control system, from November 1.
“The North imports the integrated circuit chips due to the failure of 100 percent local manufacturing,” Kim Heung-kwang, a North Korean defector and the head of NKIS told reporters.“It’s a big problem if the U.S. and South Korea are found to be involved in the [power] supply line of integrated circuit chips and devised a plot to cause trouble.”
“The fact that the North manufactures more than 1000 parts of the missile in dozens of factories in the form of co-operative production also breeds suspicion… The chips are produced in an electronics factory located in Chagang Province, and I believe this is the place where the investigation will start.”
Kim Heung-kwang said North Korea test-fired Musudan missiles eight times from April 15 until October 20, but the North succeeded only once in the launch on June 22. The Musudan missile, also known as the BM-25 or Hwasong-10, has an estimated range of between 2,500-4,000 kilometers and an estimated payload capacity of 1,000-1,250 kilograms.
Kim argued Kim Jong Un reached the conclusion that the North should seek new lines of inquiry after repeated failure.
The latest failed missile launch, in particular, aggravated suspicion that the successive failures may be connected to sabotage.
On October 20, North Korea attempted to conduct a missile launch ahead of the U.S. Presidential debate but failed. U.S. Strategic Command said the missile was “presumed” to be a Musudan intermediate-range ballistic missile.
“After the first round of engineering analysis, a crack was found in the tale of missile fuselage,” Kim Heung-kwang told reporters. “The crack fed the fire in time for launch, so the body was wrapped with high-temperature flames, rocked from side to side, and then dropped.”
Kim said the launch vehicle was also burnt.
South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reported on Wednesday that the North’s failed missile launch caused “considerable damage” to the transport erector launcher (TEL). The Washington Post said on the same day that “burn scars after each missile firing” could be seen in satellite imagery.
Kim Jong Un ordered the mobilization of all the officials of the country’s State Security Department and Defense Security Command of the Korean People’s Army (KPA) and dispatched 60 investigators to the site. Kim Won Hong, Minister of State Security, was appointed as chief of the special investigation teams, the NKIS added.
“Kim Won Hong was ordered not to return to Pyongyang until he finds out what happened,” Kim Heung-kwang told reporters.
The North’s relevant officials are believed to be under heightened surveillance and are prohibited from traveling and moving while the leadership goes over their cellphone records, he added.
Edited by: Oliver Hotham
Featured Image: Rodong Sinmun, Hwasong-10