NORTH KOREA’S ICBM WAR­HEAD

The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitics -

Pho­to­graphic anal­y­sis of North Korea’s new in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­sile (ICBM) reveals the nose cone of the nu­clear-ca­pa­ble rocket ap­pears sim­i­lar to a sus­pected Chi­nese-sup­plied war­head for a Pak­istani nu­clear-ca­pa­ble mis­sile.

Mis­sile an­a­lyst Rick Fisher, a se­nior fel­low at the In­ter­na­tional As­sess­ment and Strat­egy Cen­ter, tells In­side the Ring the war­head stage of the new ICBM, dubbed Hwa­song-14 and flight-tested with great fan­fare July 4, ap­pears very sim­i­lar to the last stage of a mis­sile tested in Jan­uary by Pak­istan.

The Pak­istani medium-range Ababeel mis­sile was flight-tested Jan. 24 and is as­sessed to be ca­pa­ble of car­ry­ing ei­ther a con­ven­tional or nu­clear war­head.

The war­head stage sim­i­lar­i­ties sug­gest “there is a real pos­si­bil­ity that North Korea and Pak­istan are con­tin­u­ing their his­toric co­op­er­a­tion in the de­vel­op­ment of long-range bal­lis­tic mis­siles,” Mr. Fisher said.

Mr. Fisher said Asian in­tel­li­gence sources told him that the third war­head stage of the Ababeel is liq­uid­fu­eled and was launched atop two solid-fuel stages de­vel­oped from Pak­istan’s Sha­heen II or Sha­heen III medium-range mis­siles.

The new Hwa­song-14 ap­pears to use three liq­uid­fuel stages, and the nose cone shown in state-run North Korean video reveals it is nearly iden­ti­cal to the new Pak­istan mis­sile nose cone.

“What is im­por­tant to note is that, ac­cord­ing to In­dian sources, Ababeel demon­strated ei­ther a mul­ti­ple­war­head ca­pa­bil­ity or the abil­ity to de­ploy de­coys along with a sin­gle war­head,” Mr. Fisher said.

The mul­ti­ple-war­head ca­pa­bil­ity for the Ababeel is likely sourced to China, which has pro­vided Pak­istan with nu­clear weapons and other mis­sile tech­nol­ogy for sev­eral decades, he added.

“It is also pos­si­ble that China could have given this tech­nol­ogy to North Korea orig­i­nally, us­ing a Pak­istan test as a means to fur­ther con­ceal the tech­nol­ogy ori­gin,” Mr. Fisher said, not­ing it is “very un­likely” such mul­ti­ple-war­head tech­nol­ogy could have been de­vel­oped in­dige­nously by ei­ther Pak­istan or North Korea.

“China’s goal has been to cre­ate ever greater de­ni­a­bil­ity re­gard­ing its pro­lif­er­a­tion of mis­sile and nu­clear tech­nolo­gies by en­abling North Korea, Pak­istan and Iran to be­come nu­clear mis­sile states via their dis­creet shar­ing of tech­nolo­gies, much of which comes from China,” he said.

An­other clear sign of Chi­nese col­lu­sion with the North Korean and Pak­istani mis­sile pro­grams is the fact that both mo­bile launch­ers used to fire the Hwa­song-14 and Pak­istan’s Sha­heen III ap­pear to be made by the San­jiang Spe­cial Ve­hi­cle Corp. of the China Aerospace Sci­ence and In­dus­try Corp., China’s main mis­sile maker.

De­spite the dis­clo­sures of covert Chi­nese exports of mo­bile launch­ers since 2012, the U.S. gov­ern­ment had taken no ac­tion against Bei­jing.

“What mat­ters for Amer­i­can se­cu­rity plan­ners is that North Korea’s Hwa­song-14 ICBM may be­gin its ca­reer with a mul­ti­ple war­head ca­pa­bil­ity — tech­nol­ogy that will likely be im­proved as North Korea de­vel­ops its solid fuel and mo­bile medium-range and in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal-range bal­lis­tic mis­siles,” Mr. Fisher said.

A mo­bile ICBM ca­pa­bil­ity for North Korea greatly in­creases the dan­ger of a sur­prise nu­clear at­tack.

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