North Korea is believed to have more than 1,000 missiles of varying capabilities, including long-range missiles which could one day strike the US. Pyongyang’s programme has progressed over the last few decades from tactical artillery rockets in the 1960s and 70s to short-range and medium-range ballistic missiles in the 1980s and 90s. Systems capable of greater ranges are understood to be under research and development. The country’s missile programme has mainly been developed from the Scud, itself a development from the German V2 rockets of World War II.
It first obtained tactical missiles from the Soviet Union as early as 1969, but its first Scuds reportedly came via Egypt in 1976. Egypt is believed to have supplied North Korea with missiles and designs in return for its support against Israel in the Yom Kippur War. By 1984, North Korea was building its own Scuds, the Hwasong-5. The larger, longer range Hwasong-6 followed, and eventually the Nodong – essentially a 50% larger Hwasong-6. Following these came the multiple-stage Taepodong missiles, which can potentially be configured as satellite launchers or missiles.
In 2006, it test-fired a Taepodong-2 missile, which experts say could have a range of many thousands of miles, and rockets with related technology in 2009 and 2012. All three launches ended in failure. However, North Korea made another, apparently successful, launch of a three-stage rocket on 12 December 2012. It was condemned by many in the international community as cover for a missile test. In June 2014, a North Korean propaganda film briefly showed what some experts said might be a newly developed cruise missile, believed to be similar to the Russian KH-35 anti-ship missile. It is unclear whether North Korea previously owned any cruise missiles.