I see recently on the news that the US, Japan, and South Korea are opposed to North Korea's satellite launch because, they claim, it's a cover-up for testing long-range missile technology.

From the BBC:

North Korea's space programme causes panic around the region because some countries believe it is a cover for the development of a weapons system.

The US and other nations say the launch constitutes a test of long-range missile technology banned under UN resolutions.

From the NY Times:

In addition, North Korea has repeatedly conducted what it calls satellite launchings that American and South Korean officials, as well as the United Nations Security Council, have condemned as a cover for developing and testing intercontinental ballistic missile technology.

From Reuters:

North Korea, which planned to launch the rocket between December 10 and December 22, is banned from carrying out any missile or nuclear related tests by United Nations resolutions imposed in 2006 and 2009 after it conducted nuclear tests. [...] Critics say North Korea's rocket program is aimed at developing an ballistic missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead.

How much truth is there? I mean, fundamentally, what is so different between long-range missile technology and satellite launch rocket technology anyway? Would anyone be able to build a satellite launch rocket without a significant portion of technology that is also common to long-range missiles? How do we tell it's a cover-up? I thought a lot of the technology researched by NASA was also used in the US military anyway. Is this a case of the pot calling the kettle black?

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    I think it's true that the technologies are similar or identical (see Wernher von Braun's career, for example). The "cover-up" then isn't a technological, but instead a matter of intent: it's about why do you want the technology (or what will you do with it after you have it). Yes it's a case of the pot calling the kettle black (the difference being, says the pot, that North Korea is an insane and murderous regime, unlike other countries which already have those technologies: a similar argument being used to withold atomic weapons from Iran, even though other countries already have them).
    – ChrisW
    Dec 7, 2012 at 10:59
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    Assuming that the claim is about "intent" and not about "technology", the claim may be unverifiable, and therefore this not a good/answerable question for this site: meta.skeptics.stackexchange.com/a/978/2703 says, "Kinds of questions which are NOT answerable include: What individuals believe or are motivated by".
    – ChrisW
    Dec 7, 2012 at 11:03
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    Welcome to Skeptics.SE! Please provide some references to places where this claim is being made.
    – Oddthinking
    Dec 7, 2012 at 11:38
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    "the technology for this space launch is mostly identical to that employed in North Korea's ballistic missile programme. This includes the engine, the missile frame, and the three-stage separation technology." - bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-17677212
    – Tom77
    Dec 7, 2012 at 12:03
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    @Oddthinking I edited some of those in (I googled for north korea cover and north korea missile).
    – ChrisW
    Dec 8, 2012 at 23:25


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