Report: North Korean ICBM Base is Operational

The Associated Press is reporting that the world’s strangest regime is continuing its march toward becoming a missile power:

Fresh commercial satellite images show that North Korea’s sophisticated new missile base on its west coast — designed for multiple test flights in a short time — is ready for use, according to an independent analyst.

Photographic images show the launch tower and what appears to be construction materials on the launch pad, Tim Brown, a senior fellow with GlobalSecurity.org, said Thursday. He speculated that the debris may be there to make the pad appear as though it is still under construction.

“The launch pad appears to be operational,” Brown said.

That’s not good. Jeff Manber writes that it may be bad for U.S. companies trying to loosen restrictive ITAR laws on technology exports.

The real or imagined distinction between a military and a civil space sector continues to bedevil policy officials. Look at Iran—they too have a launch program, and their launch of the Omid satellite this past February allowed them to become only the ninth nation to launch domestic satellites. So too with Israel. But who will say that Israel and Iran would fund their space program for only scientific results, and not strategic? Not I. And now South Korea is pursuing a domestic geostationary big bird, and India and Japan are spending significant amounts of funding for civil and commercial space efforts. Good? Sure. Troubling…yes as well….

It may seem like a problem far removed from the commercial space sector, but like it or not, the recent actions taken by North Korea reinforces the fears of some towards a legitimate commercial space market. The spectacle of new entrants into the spacefaring club will make it more difficult for commercial space entrepreneurs already battling restrictive ITAR regulations, fears by certain government officials of a true international robust market for launch vehicles and a concern over a legitimately strong private sector in space.

We’ll see.