Wednesday 21 February 2018

What was on display at yesterday's military march?

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un Photo: Kyodo/via REUTERS
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un Photo: Kyodo/via REUTERS

Tension between North Korea and the United States rose to new levels yesterday after the Pyongyang regime unveiled what could be a missile capable of striking the American mainland.

The new long-range weapon - the KN14 - was the centrepiece of an array of weaponry put on show at a military parade in the North Korean capital.

But if the parade signalled a readiness for war, North Korea has long insisted that its goal is peace - and survival - with the growing arsenal a way to ensure that the government in Pyongyang is not easily overthrown.

Kim Jong-un was greeted with thunderous - and extensively practised - applause as he stepped into view on a large podium on Saturday, clapping to acknowledge the thousands of soldiers and civilians taking part in the parade at Kim Il-sung Square.

The elaborate display of the state's immense power involves tens of thousands of participants, from goose-stepping soldiers to crowds of civilians who have spent weeks perfecting their ability to wave plastic flowers in unison.

For outside military analysts, though, the highlight is the weaponry that the North puts on display. A series of what appeared to be KN-08 missiles were among the weapons rolled out on trucks. Analysts say the missiles could one day be capable of hitting targets as far as the US, although North Korea has yet to flight-test them.

The parade also included large rockets covered by canisters in two different types of transporter erector launcher trucks, or TELs. An official from South Korea's Defence Ministry could not immediately confirm whether any of them represented a new type of ICBM.

Kim Dong-yub, a North Korea expert at Seoul's Institute for Far Eastern Studies, said the canisters and trucks suggested the North was developing technology to "cold launch" ICBMs, ejecting them from the canisters before they ignite.

This would allow North Korea to prevent its limited number of ICBM-capable launcher trucks from being damaged during launches and also make the missiles harder to detect after they are fired, he said. Cold launches would also allow the missiles to be fired from silos.

The analyst added that North Korea is also likely to be developing solid-fuel ICBMs, and that some of the rockets inside the canisters on Saturday might have been prototypes.

Other military hardware at the parade included tanks, multiple rocket launchers and artillery, as well as a solid-fuel missile designed to be fired from submarines.

Other senior officials joining Kim on the parade podium included Kim Won-hong, who the South Korean government had said earlier this year was fired from his job as state security minister, presumably over corruption.

South Korea has a patchy record of tracking developments in North Korea, as information about the secretive, authoritarian state is often impossible to confirm.

Sunday Independent

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