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Experts: North Korea missile carrier likely from China
Question of the Day
TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — The enormous, 16-wheel truck that North Korea used to carry a missile during a recent parade likely came from China in a possible violation of U.N. sanctions meant to rein in Pyongyang’s missile program, experts say.
The carrier, also believed capable of launching missiles, caught the eye of experts during last Sunday’s military show in Pyongyang because it was the biggest carrier yet displayed by North Korea and gives the country— truculently at odds with the U.S., Japan and South Korea — the ability to transport long-range missiles around its territory, making them harder to locate and destroy.
The large size of the vehicle “represents a quantum leap forward” for the North Koreans, said Wendell Minnick, a reporter on Asian military developments for Defense News, a Washington-based publication.
Unlikely to have been made by North Korea because of its technical sophistication, experts said the design of the vehicle shows that China is the probable source. Pinning a sanctions-busting charge on Beijing would be difficult, however, because it would be hard to prove that Beijing provided the technology for military purposes or even that it sold the vehicle directly to North Korea, the experts said.
The vehicle also can be used in other fields, like oil exploration. At the same time North Korea might have gotten it from another country in a re-export deal.
“It’s very possible there was no intended violation of sanctions by China on this piece of equipment,” said arms transfer expert Pieter Wezeman of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
On Thursday,China denied any wrongdoing in connection with the vehicle’s appearance at the North Korean parade. Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin told a regular news conference that China is against the spread of weapons of mass destruction and carriers for such weapons. He said China follows international laws and has strict rules against the spread of such weapons.
Analyst Ted Parsons of IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly first raised the possibility that the missile-carrying vehicle came from China, citing similarities to Chinese design patterns in the windscreen, the windscreen wiper configuration, the door and handle, the grill, the front bumper lighting configurations, and the cabin steps.
“The 16-wheel TEL is apparently based on a design from the 9th Academy of the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation,” he said.
China military analyst Richard Fisher of the International Assessment and Strategy Center in suburban Washington agreed, citing technological challenges as a major reason to believe that Pyongyang could not have developed the vehicle on its own.
This kind of system, he said, was “almost certainly beyond them.”
CASIC designs vehicles of up to 21-meter-long (68 feet) trucks with maximum loading capacity of 122 tons for production at its Hubei Sanjiang Space Wanshan Special Vehicles Co., Ltd. in central China.
CASIC’s press office did not respond to request for comment. A company statement from October 2010 cited the export of the first 16-wheel vehicle without specifying the purchasing country. The sales department of Hubei Sanjiang confirmed that a vehicle or vehicles of the 16-wheel type had been sold abroad, but refused to disclose the buyer, saying it was “a secret.”
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