North Korea’s test of a three stage “Taepodong” missile on August 31, 1998, halted the Clinton Administration’s escalating claims in 1998 of success in its “engagement” policy towards North Korea. Those claims were already in doubt due to the revelations two weeks earlier of U.S. intelligence findings that North Korea was constructing underground an apparent nuclear installation. A more profound development came later in the form of reported U.S. intelligence assessments regarding the missile test. These findings are that: 1) the third stage of the missile, claimed as a satellite by North Korea, traveled over 3,000 miles and landed in waters near Alaska. 2) North Korea will have a missile capable of striking Alaska and Hawaii by 2002, for practical purposes an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). 3) North Korea is constructing underground sites to deploy these missiles (which suggests deployment as early as 2000). 4) North Korea will have a longer-range ICBM capable of striking the U.S. west coast and other parts of the continental United States within five years.
PacNet #5 – North Korea’s Coming ICBM
February 5, 1999