NORTH KOREA’S ICBM WARHEAD
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.