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Report: North Korea has developed road-mobile launchers

By Elizabeth Shim
Report: North Korea has developed road-mobile launchers
North Korea stated it successfully launched a solid-fuel missile, the Pukguksong-2, on Sunday. Photo by KCNA

May 22 (UPI) -- North Korea used a road-mobile launcher to test a new midrange missile on Sunday, according to Pyongyang state media.

The use of a transporter erector launcher in the most recent missile test could mean Pyongyang has developed the capability to build its own missile vehicles, and may have more than 100 TELs in its arsenal, South Korean newspaper Asia Business reported.

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"The midrange surface-to-surface solid-fuel missile Pukguksong-2 launched successfully," North Korea stated. "Korean Workers' Party Chairman Kim Jong Un approved of its deployment in military units."

State media showed images of the missile just after liftoff that included the road mobile launcher used in the test.

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Mobile launchers can allow for adjustments to ensure the optimal angles of flight to a target.

North Korea may have begun acquiring demilitarized vehicles from China's Hubei Sanjiang Space Wanshan Special Vehicle Co., a wholly owned subsidiary of China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp., according to Nuclear Threat Initiative in Washington, D.C.

The vehicles were then adapted to North Korea military needs and equipped with erection and launching technology.

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Since 2010, international sanctions have embargoed exports of the vehicles, but North Korea may have reverse-engineered existing vehicles to build as many as 108 TELs, according to Asia Business.

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That number is an estimate derived from a report, jointly prepared by U.S. and South Korea militaries, that states North Korea could have as many as 900 ballistic missiles in its arsenal, according to the report.

North Korea's claim of a solid-fuel missile test, if true, could also mean Pyongyang can swiftly target South Korea's missile defense system KAMD, as well as U.S. military bases in Japan and the Pacific.

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Solid-fueled missiles come loaded with fuel and can be launched quickly after they are moved to a launch site, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists in Cambridge, Mass.

But the group also said North Korea may not have yet acquired the technology.

South Korea military said Monday the missile is a medium-range projectile but Pyongyang has yet to acquire the re-entry technology for ICBMs.

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