North Korea un­veils an ar­ray of mil­i­tary might

Daily News - - WORLD -

NORTH Korea’s un­prece­dented night­time mil­i­tary pa­rade late on Satur­day show­cased an unusu­ally broad ar­ray of new weapons, from a show- stop­ping “mon­ster” bal­lis­tic mis­sile to pre­vi­ously un­seen bat­tle tanks.

The hard­ware, likely still in vary­ing stages of de­vel­op­ment, of­fered leader Kim Jong- un a chance to show the world his cut­ting- edge mil­i­tary power while adding prac­ti­cal ca­pa­bil­i­ties to North Korea’s al­ready for­mi­da­ble nu­clear and con­ven­tional forces, ex­perts said.

Kim is walk­ing a fine line, seek­ing to in­crease pres­sure on the US to ease sanc­tions while not de­stroy­ing rap­port with Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump or Py­ongyang’s part­ners in China.

“Kim Jong- un’s speech was not threat­en­ing to the US, in­stead la­belling North Korea’s nu­clear forces as self- de­fen­sive,” said Bruce Klingner, a re­tired CIA North Korea an­a­lyst now at the Her­itage Foun­da­tion. Video from the pa­rade sug­gested a huge in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­sile ( ICBM) po­ten­tially more lethal ei­ther be­cause of mul­ti­ple war­heads or a big­ger pay­load, larger mis­sile car­ri­ers, a next- gen­er­a­tion sub­ma­rine- launched mis­sile, and ad­vances in con­ven­tional weaponry, mil­i­tary an­a­lysts said.

The star of Satur­day’s show was a mas­sive, pre­vi­ously un­seen ICBM car­ried on an equally huge “trans­porter- erec­tor- launcher” ( TEL) ve­hi­cle with 11 axles. Es­ti­mated to be 25 to 26 me­tres long and 2.5 to 2.9 me­tres in di­am­e­ter, the uniden­ti­fied mis­sile would be the largest road- mo­bile ICBM in the world, mil­i­tary an­a­lysts said.

Given that the Hwa­song- 15, the largest mis­sile ever test- flown by North Korea, can al­ready tar­get any­where in the US, the most likely prac­ti­cal use for the new ICBM would be the abil­ity to carry mul­ti­ple war­heads, said Melissa Han­ham, deputy di­rec­tor of the Open Nu­clear Net­work.

It is much cheaper for North Korea to add war­heads than for the US to add in­ter­cep­tors, said Jef­frey Lewis, a mis­sile re­searcher at the James Martin Cen­ter for Non­pro­lif­er­a­tion Stud­ies ( CNS).

“If each new North Korean ICBM can carry 3 to 4 war­heads, we would need about 12 to 16 in­ter­cep­tors for each mis­sile,” he said on Twit­ter. “The last time the US bought 14 in­ter­cep­tors, it cost $ 1 bil­lion.”

But, said Kim Dong- yup, a for­mer South Korea Navy of­fi­cer who is now a pro­fes­sor at Kyung­nam Univer­sity’s Far East In­sti­tute in Seoul: “A big­ger war­head doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily mean mul­ti­ple war­heads, a tech­nol­ogy I be­lieve North Korea has not se­cured yet.”

An­a­lysts said it was also no­table that North Korea ap­peared to have built the huge new TELS to carry the new mis­siles. “They have a very lim­ited sup­ply of long TELS they ac­quired from China,” said an­other CNS re­searcher, Dave Sch­mer­ler, adding that the lack of ve­hi­cles has lim­ited the num­ber of ICBMS that could be de­ployed. “So the longer TELS we saw were in­dige­nously pro­duced.”

But the mas­sive size of the new mis­sile and its car­rier also has draw­backs, said Markus Schiller, a mis­sile ex­pert based in Europe.

“Only spe­cial roads and bridges could sup­port this in fu­elled con­di­tion,” he said.

“No sane per­son would drive this tick­ing bomb through the North Korean coun­try­side.”

It would likely take as much as half a day to fuel such a large mis­sile, making it dif­fi­cult to quickly de­ploy in a war, mean­ing the mis­sile’s main pur­pose is likely a po­lit­i­cal warn­ing, Schiller said.

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