I am a little baffled that the media isn’t making a bigger deal out of the fact that North Korea paraded six road-mobile ICBMs through Pyongyang.  Six road-mobile ICBMs.  Hey!  Look!  ICBMs!  Road-mobile ICBMs! Just like Gates said!

As best I can tell, reporters don’t really understand that this isn’t the same missile as the Unha-3.

It’s not.  It’s different.  This is important.

1.

One set of issues relates to whether the missiles were real, or simply aspirational mock-ups.  I am uploading a paper — “Dog and Pony Show” — by Markus Schiller and Robert Schmucker that is strongly of the view that we are looking at mockups.  Some commenters may  disagree, especially about the little white straps.

(Schiller and Schmucker are skeptical that this will ever be a real missile, although I hasten to add that the United States saw a pair of “missile simulators” — better known as  mockups — in 1994 that gave us the TD-1 and -2 names we use today. See: Barbara Starr, “N Korea Casts a Longer Shadow with the TD-2,” Jane’s Defence Weekly, March 12, 1994.)

2.

To the extent that this new missile has received any attention at all, it is the truck that seems to interest reporters.  I find that fascinating.  Normally, I’d be impressed, but stop ignoring the missile!

The TEL is an important part of the weapons system (unless you plan to strap the missile to a donkey) and North Korea is dependent on foreign suppliers for heavy-duty vehicle chassis (warning: wikileaks cable).

China appears to be the supplier, in violation of existing sanctions on North Korea.

There seems to be some confusion about the basis for stating that the export of  TEL is a violation of the Security Council Resolution.  UNSCR1718 and UNSCR 1874 are actually pretty clear about this. All member states are obligated to prevent the supply to the DPRK of a number of items, including:

(ii)  all items, materials, equipment, goods and technology as set out in the lists in documents S/2006/814 and S/2006/815, unless within 14 days of adoption of this resolution the Committee has amended or completed their provisions also taking into account the list in document S/2006/816, as well as other items, materials, equipment, goods and technology, determined by the Security Council or the Committee, which could contribute to DPRK’s nuclear-related, ballistic missile-related or other weapons of mass destruction-related programmes;

S/2006/815 defines ballistic missile programs list pursuant to resolution 1718 (2006).  It is identical to the MTCR Annex. Both list “Vehicles designed or modified for the transport, handling, control, activation and launching of the systems specified in 1.A” as controlled items.  Although such a vehicle is a less-sensitive Category II transfer under the MTCR, there is little doubt it violates the sanctions resolution. (UNSCR 1874 expanded these obligations and provided the opportunity for an updated statement of controlled items.  Short version: TELs still not okay to transfer.)

If China exported the trucks after 2006, this is a clear violation of sanctions. The resemblance between the DPRK TEL and two Chinese models — WS2600 and the WS51200 –  are obvious.

I think it is a WS51200.  The little face plate to hide the notch in the cab doesn’t fool me any more than the bright red paint  job.  That sucker is designed to carry very large missiles. There are a series of interesting Chinese announcements about initial production of the WS51200 (1|2) including one that has been taken down.

Why the rush boys?  Have an export order that needed to be filled before a parade?