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Report: Belarus firm involved in North Korea ICBM mobile launcher

By
Elizabeth Shim
North Korea may have imported the mobile launcher used in the test of the Hwasong-15 in November 2017. File Photo by KCNA/UPI
North Korea may have imported the mobile launcher used in the test of the Hwasong-15 in November 2017. File Photo by KCNA/UPI | License Photo

July 29 (UPI) -- A Belarussian firm may have been involved in the production of the mobile launcher for a North Korean intercontinental ballistic missile, according to a news service in Belarus.

Naviny.by reported Sunday the transporter erector launcher used in the test of the Hwasong-15, launched successfully on Nov. 28, 2017, is likely identical to the WS51200, a chassis that is manufactured in China through a specialized joint venture with a Belarussian firm.

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The mobile launcher North Korea used includes similar features, but one difference is the number of wheels. North Korea's chassis had 18 wheels, while the WS51200 has 16 wheels.

The WS51200 was previously used during China's tests of intercontinental ballistic missiles, including the Dongfeng-31.

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Naviny's news report did not state whether North Korea purchased its mobile launcher from China and added more wheels, or whether the chassis was imported with pre-modified features.

The WS51200 chassis is similar to the MZKT-79221, a Russian transporter erector launcher, used in the Russian launch of the Topol M, an intercontinental ballistic missile.

The MZKT-79221 chassis is manufactured at a plant in Minsk, Belarus, according to the report.

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The China-based joint venture plant began operations in 1998, in Xiaogan City, Hubei Province. It produces heavy-duty 20- to 75-ton vehicles, in addition to missile transporters. The Belarussian side provides technology and know-how, and the Chinese side provides capital to fund the plant, the report said.

Naviny also reported the Chinese may have sold the mobile launcher to North Korea while passing it off as a timber transport vehicle.

In 2017, North Korea claimed the Hwasong-15 traveled more than 2,780 miles. Analysts later said the missile would have a range of more than 8,100 miles, enough to reach Washington, D.C.

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News of the mobile launcher's origin comes at a time when countries are issuing a response to North Korea's short-range missile tests last week.

Japan's defense ministry said Monday the latest launch was a violation of United Nations Security Council sanctions resolutions, Yonhap reported.

Tokyo said North Korea fired "short-range missiles" and that Pyongyang's actions are "extremely regrettable."

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