German analysts say new North Korea missiles are fakes

WASHINGTON Thu Apr 26, 2012 8:19pm EDT

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - German analysts who have studied photos of six new North Korean missiles unveiled at a military parade in Pyongyang this month have concluded that they were low-quality fakes.

German missile engineers Markus Schiller and Robert Schmucker of Schmucker Technologie said their findings cast doubt on the impoverished Communist state's claims of military strength.

"For now, the ICBM (intercontinental ballistic missile) presentation was nothing else than a nice dog and pony show," they wrote in an April 18 analysis posted online at Arms Control Wonk here

The weapons were displayed at an April 15 parade before North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, two days after a failed attempt by the country to launch a long-range missile.

The German missile engineers said the missiles seemed to be a mix of liquid- and solid-fuel parts that could not work together.

Each of the six missiles, designated KN-08 by Western analysts, was slightly different and did not fit the big new eight-axle mobile launchers they were carried on, Schiller and Schmucker wrote.

Small boxes or retro rockets on one missile were missing on others, they said. Each of the missiles showed slightly different cable duct positions and covers that were either in horizontal or vertical positions.

Several photos show the warhead's surface was undulated, suggesting it is only a metal sheet fixed to a frame, the analysts wrote.

"MOCKUPS OF LOW QUALITY"

"It is therefore clear that the presented missiles are only mockups of low quality," they said, adding that there was no evidence that North Korea had a working intercontinental ballistic missile.

The warhead displayed at the parade is different in design and shape from previous North Korean weapons, meaning that North Korea has "developed" six different designs, Schmucker and Schiller said.

"If the North Koreans had really developed a non-conventional warhead, one would expect them to stick with one design, and not repeat the efforts again and again."

David Wright, co-director of the global security program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, a U.S. advocacy group, agreed that the missiles seemed to be mockups but said it was unclear what was behind them.

"In other words, these may have been somewhat clumsy representations of a missile that is being developed, although we don't know how far along that development might be," he said in an email. Wright said North Korea clearly had trouble developing rockets and since it does few flight tests they were not progressing quickly.

Pyongyang also might not have the capability to build many big rockets. With the attention it drew from parading the missiles, "you could argue that the cost of buying the large trucks -- which add a lot of credibility to the image of the missiles -- was money well spent in terms of projecting an image of power," he said.

(Reporting By Ian Simpson; Editing by David Storey)

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