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North may be running low on mobile launchers

May 19,2017
North Korea’s state-run television revealed what appeared to be the use of a “temporary launcher” in the latest missile test, local military sources said Thursday, another hint that the country is running short on transporter erector launchers (TELs).

Pyongyang seemed to be saving up its TELs in the face of international sanctions, one South Korean military official said. The North has a long history of buying trucks from abroad and illegally rebuilding them into TELs, which goes against United Nations Security Council resolutions.

Resolution 2270 embargoes any item that could directly contribute to the development of North Korea’s operational capabilities of its armed forces.

In photos released by the North’s Korean Central Television Monday in regards to the Hwasong-12 ballistic missile launch, which was test-fired a day before, the projectile was seen being rolled out on a 12-wheel TEL. The missile was then erected, detached from the TEL and fired from what appeared to be a “temporary launcher,” officials from the South’s National Defense Ministry said.

The method was used by the Soviet Union back in the 1950s, the sources added.

North Korea is known to have around 100 TELs, according to South Korea’s 2016 defense white paper, although the U.S. Defense Department thinks it has 200.

Hints of North Korea’s shortage crisis lingered last month during a military parade celebrating the 105th birthday of the country’s late founder, Kim Il Sung. The KN-08 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), which in a previous military parade was rolled out on a 16-wheel TEL, was hoisted on a 12-wheel TEL that day, which is usually set aside for an intermediate-range ballistic missile.

The 16-wheel TEL went to a new ICBM that was never revealed before. It is unknown precisely how many 16-wheel TELs the North owns, but the vehicles were said to be rebuilt forestry trucks the country bought from a Chinese logging company in November 2010.

One of two new suspected ICBMs shown in the April military parade appeared to have been mounted on a TEL rebuilt from a truck jointly produced by North Korea and Russia, a local government official said. The trailer-type TEL was emblazoned with the designation “Taebaeksan-06” on the front in Korean, a vehicle that a North Korean and Russian company built together in the past for civilian use.

BY LEE CHUL-JAE [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]


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