22:22 GMT28 February 2020
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    North Korea's recent launch of a long-range rocket raises a "legitimate concern" over Pyongyang's ability to develop a ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear weapon, scientist David Wright told Radio Sputnik's Brian Becker.

    On February 7, North Korea launched a long-range rocket that placed a satellite into orbit. The launch defied a UN Security Council resolution banning Pyongyang from launching rockets that could be used as ballistic missiles to carry nuclear warheads.

    Wright, the co-director of the Union of Concerned Scientists Global Security Program, said the satellite North Korea launched over the weekend is essentially a "training system" for its fledgling space program.

    In an interview with Radio Sputnik's "Loud & Clear," Wright said North Korea's current satellite technology is on par with what the United States and Russia had in the 1950s and 60s.

    "The very legitimate concern is that they're learning about technology they could use to build a … ballistic missile, but the [rocket] that they launched this time is not the same as a ballistic missile," he said of North Korea.

    By successfully launching a satellite into orbit, he added, Pyongyang gains a certain degree of "prestige."

    "There's a handful of countries that actually launch things into space," Wright said, "and so from North Korea's point of view, if it can do that, it demonstrates that it's a more advanced country than people think."

    The United States is deploying an advanced missile defense system, the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), to South Korea to defend the region against the potential development of ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons.

    Wright said that deploying THAAD is a "political" response, noting that long before last weekend's launch, North Korea was in possession of missiles capable of reaching South Korea.

    "This launch really had nothing to do with an increase in a threat to South Korea," he said. "The shorter-range missiles that target South Korea have been there for a long time – North Korea's had them for decades."

    Tags:
    South Korea, Democratic Republic of North Korea (DPRK), ballistic missile, nuclear weapons, satellite, Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), UN Security Council, United States
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