United Nations officials are investigating allegations that China supplied technology for a North Korean missile launcher in a possible breach of UN sanctions, a leading defence journal said Thursday.
IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly quoted a senior official close to a United Nations Security Council sanctions committee as saying that an associated panel of experts was “aware of the situation and will pursue enquiries”.
The committee is tasked with monitoring breaches of sanctions against the North’s missile and nuclear programmes. It is advised by the expert panel.
The 16-wheel launcher, carrying an apparently new medium-range missile, was on show Sunday at a big military parade in Pyongyang to mark the centenary of the birth of the North’s founder Kim Il-Sung.
IHS Janes’s reported earlier that China appeared to have supplied either the design or the actual vehicle to the North.
It said the transporter-erector-launcher (TEL) is apparently based on a design from the 9th Academy of the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation.
Depending on when the vehicle – or its design – was passed to the North, China could be in breach of UN sanctions imposed after the North’s long-range missile tests in 2006 and 2009.
The unidentified official quoted by IHS Jane’s hinted that political pressure not to implicate China in sanctions infringements may limit room for manoeuvre.
The defence publication in a statement quoted other military analysts as saying the missile launcher was of Chinese origin.
“There is no doubt it came from China, (but) whether it was produced as a licensed or unlicensed vehicle is an open question,” Nick Hansen of Stanford University’s centre for International Security and Cooperation was quoted as saying.
The North showed off its new missile just two days after the failure of a rocket launch purportedly intended to launch a satellite.
The United States and its allies said Pyongyang was carrying out a thinly disguised ballistic missile test in breach of UN resolutions.
The Security Council, in a statement supported by China Monday, “strongly condemned” the launch. It ordered a tightening of existing sanctions and warned of new action if Pyongyang stages another nuclear or long-range missile test.
Baek Seung-Joo of the Korea Institute of Defence Analyses said the trailer of the launcher must have been imported from China as a commercial-purpose vehicle.
“As long as China exported them as commercial vehicles, this does not fall under the UN ban, no matter what purpose the North uses them for,” he told AFP.
Baek said he believed the missiles on show Sunday were dummy models. “No country in the world uses real missiles for parades.”
South Korea, meanwhile, has deployed new cruise missiles capable of destroying targets such as missile and nuclear bases anywhere in North Korea, the defence ministry said Thursday.
The ministry released a video clip of the test-launch of the missiles, saying they could hit “any place” in the North.
“With such capabilities, our military will sternly and thoroughly punish reckless provocations by North Korea while maintaining our firm readiness,” Major general Shin Won-Sik told reporters.