- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 15, 2013

Medium- and long-range missiles paraded last month through the streets of the North Korean capital Pyongyang — and those displayed during earlier parades last year — are fakes, and the man in charge of developing them for the isolated communist state has disappeared, presumably purged, NBC reported Thursday.

U.S. government experts and independent analysts examined pictures of the medium-range Musudan and the long-range, multi-stage Hwasong-13 missiles, including high-resolution photos provided by NBC News after their reporter, Ann Curry visited the country last month.

“My opinion is that it’s a big hoax,” Markus Schiller, an aerospace engineer and former RAND Corp. military analyst, told NBC after looking at pictures from the parades July 27 and April last year.

For example, he noted, there was no evidence at the back of the Hwasong-13 of retro rockets necessary to separate the stages — crucial if a multi-stage missile is to reach sub-orbital space and strike across continents.

Mr. Schiller also said features on the rockets that varied from one to another — such as the differing placement of small guidance nozzles and hatches — add to his conclusion that they are “crude fakes.”

U.S. government experts agreed.

“Our assessment is that what we are looking at is most likely simulators used for training purposes,” according to a statement to NBC News from an unnamed government agency.

The recent disappearance from public view of Pak To-Ch’un, the Pyongyang Politburo member in charge of North Korea’s weapons production, including its missiles, has given rise to speculation that the country’s secretive and illegal missile program is in disarray.

“That the guy in charge seems to have been purged is the clearest indication we’ve seen so far that they’re having some problems,” said Alexandre Mansourov, a Korea expert and visiting scholar at Johns Hopkins University.

Neither the Musudan medium-range missile nor the multi-stage, inter-continental Hwasong-13, have ever been flight tested, another reason experts doubt their efficacy.

• Shaun Waterman can be reached at swaterman@washingtontimes.com.

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