China Asked About North Korea Missile Program Aid, U.S. Says

The Obama administration on Monday said it had asked China about fresh suspicions that a Chinese manufacturer exported missile-related technology to North Korea in possible contravention of international law, Reuters reported (see GSN, April 23).

The White House believes the Chinese firm, Hubei Sanjiang, sold the frame and other components used by North Korea to build a massive mobile missile carrier, which was seen publicly for the first time earlier this month in an armed forces display in Pyongyang.

"We've raised the allegations with the Chinese government ... as part of our ongoing close consultations on North Korea," White House spokesman Jay Carney said at a press briefing.

"The United States will continue to work with the international community, including China, to enforce sanctions against North Korea's ballistic missile program and nuclear program," the spokesman said.

Obama officials believe the Chinese manufacturer did not export to Pyongyang a fully constructed carrier platform and that the company thought the parts would be put to nonmilitary uses. The sale also was probably conducted through a shell company, a high-ranking official said on Saturday (Spetalnick/Bull, Reuters I, April 24).

Hubei Sanjiang seems to be promoting the vehicle equipment export, U.N. envoys told Reuters.

A press release uploaded to the company's website in 2011 highlighted the completed sale of "the largest self-propelled overload special off-road transporter in China" to an unidentified end-user, Western diplomats said. The release said Hubei was hopeful for further business dealings with "the consumer" of the vehicle frame.

Hubei is owned by China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp., a state-controlled firm that also manufactures missiles and rockets. The subsidiary builds heavy load vehicles. A  representative of Hubei's foreign commerce division insisted the firm had no business ties with Pyongyang.

"We've had trade cooperation in the past with South Korea, but not with North Korea," the official said.

All countries are banned under U.N. Security Council resolutions from engaging in any weapon-related commerce with North Korea. It is not yet apparent whether Hubei would be punished for the suspected chassis sale to North Korea (Louis Charbonneau, Reuters II, April 24).

The North Korean Foreign Ministry on Monday accused Washington of hypocrisy for condemning its recent long-range rocket launch but not the firing of "other country's" ballistic missiles, the Yonhap News Agency reported.

The other country in question is likely India, which on Thursday carried out a successful maiden trial flight of a nuclear-ready missile with near-ICBM capabilities (see GSN, April 20).

"The U.S. malignantly slandered the (North's) satellite launch … as 'a long-range missile launch' and spearheaded a campaign for 'protesting' against it for no reason," the Foreign Ministry said in comments disseminated by the state-run Korean Central News Agency.

Pyongyang maintains -- to overwhelming skepticism -- that its rocket launch was a peaceful attempt to place an Earth-observation satellite into orbit. The United States and others assume the launch was a cover for a long-range ballistic missile test banned under Security Council resolutions. The rocket broke up shortly after liftoff (Yonhap News Agency I, April 24).

There was no reference to the rocket firing in state television coverage of a gathering in Beijing on Monday between Chinese President Hu Jintao and senior North Korean Workers' Party official Kim Yong Il, the Associated Press reported.

Hu said deepening relations with Pyongyang was a chief goal of the governing Chinese Communist Party. "We will carry on this tradition ... boost strategic communication and coordination on key international issues and work for peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula," Hu said (Associated Press/Washington Post, April 23).

Meanwhile, German technical specialists said six large missiles rolled out during the April 15 parade in Pyongyang were fake and the whole display was a "nice dog and pony show," Yonhap reported.

"At first glance, the missile seems capable of covering a range of 10,000 kilometers," Schmucker Technology analysts Robert Schmucker and Markus Schiller said in an analysis. "However, a closer look reveals that all of the presented missiles are mockups."

"There is still no evidence that North Korea actually has a functional ICBM," the analysts wrote.

All of North Korea's assumed long-range ballistic missile tests to date have ended in failure.

"At a closer look, it is impossible to find a real warhead separation plane on any of the observed ICBMs. ... A real warhead's casing has to resist thermal and structural loads of an atmospheric re-entry and is certainly not designed this way," they concluded.

Additionally, the pair said a ground-transportable missile of the type seen in the parade is never liquid-fueled but the missiles on display had what appeared to be draining or fueling valves fitted to every stage (Yonhap News Agency II, April 24).

April 24, 2012

The Obama administration on Monday said it had asked China about fresh suspicions that a Chinese manufacturer exported missile-related technology to North Korea in possible contravention of international law, Reuters reported.