A vehicle likely large enough to carry an intercontinental ballistic missile has been spotted at a North Korean parade training site, according to a U.S. research organization, the latest evidence Pyongyang may use an upcoming political anniversary to showcase missile technology.
38 North, a website specializing in North Korea, says commercial satellite imagery from Tuesday revealed a “probable missile-related vehicle” at the Mirim Parade Training Ground on the outskirts of Pyongyang, where the North rehearses its major military parades.
“While imagery resolution is insufficient to determine exactly what the vehicle is, relative size and shape suggests that it may be a transporter-erector-launcher (TEL) for a large missile,” the website said late Tuesday.
The vehicle appears to be around 20 meters long and 3 meters wide, “which would be of sufficient size to carry a Hwasong intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM),” the post said. “Alternatively, it could be a towed mobile-erector-launcher (MEL) with its truck-tractor attached,” it added.
Satellite images suggest North Korea has been preparing for weeks to hold the parade, expected October 10. That is the 75th anniversary of the founding of North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party of Korea. Such anniversaries are major events in the single-party, quasi-Stalinist dictatorship.
Some analysts predict North Korea may unveil a new solid-fuel ICBM at the parade. Others say Pyongyang could soon showcase a submarine-launched ballistic missile, or SLBM, possibly via a test launch.
Either technology adds an unpredictable new component to North Korea’s arsenal. Solid-fuel missiles are easier to transport and take less time to prepare for launch. SLBMs are also mobile and easier to hide.
A major display of military power could be seen as a provocation just weeks ahead of the U.S. presidential election. U.S. President Donald Trump says he has “no problem” with North Korea’s short-range launches, but he may object to a bigger move.
At the beginning of the year, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said he would soon show off a “new strategic weapon.” But since then, North Korea has had to deal with devastating floods, international sanctions that continue to hold back its economy, and the worldwide coronavirus pandemic.
North Korea for months insisted it had no coronavirus infections. But it has quietly backed away from that assertion.
Parade preparations appear to be smaller than in past years, possibly because of coronavirus concerns.