BEIJING -- Doesn’t that truck look familiar?
Military experts have raised an alarm about an apparently brand-new 16-wheel transporter-erector-launcher vehicle that the North Korean regime strutted last weekend during a parade through Pyongyang, saying it appears to be Chinese in design and origin.
If so, the truck would violate U.N. Security Council Resolution 1874, which prohibits the supply of any arms-related equipment to North Korea.
The enormous vehicle was first seen Sunday carrying a missile as North Koreans celebrated the 100th anniversary of founder Kim Il Sung’s birthday. Jane’s Defense Weekly issued a report a day later noting the similarities between the North Korean vehicle and a model made by the 9th Academy of the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp. In the report, Jane’s notes that the vehicles “have the same windscreen design; the same four windscreen wiper configuration; the same door and handle design; a very similar grill area; almost the same front bumper lighting configuration; and the same design for the cabin steps.’’
If the Chinese manufacturer supplied the North Koreans, it would have required “approval from the highest levels of the Chinese government and the People’s Liberation Army," the report said.
Proving that the Chinese violated sanctions regulations would be difficult, experts cautioned, because of the possibility that the truck vehicle was resold through a third country, such as Pakistan.
At a briefing Thursday in Beijing, foreign ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said that China was abiding by all U.N. Security Council resolutions and practicing strict export control of weapons. “China is always against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction," said Liu.
Traditionally North Korea’s closest ally, Beijing is showing clear signs of pique over a missile test conducted by Pyongyang last Friday and threats to conduct a nuclear test. On Monday, Beijing joined in a Security Council resolution condemning Friday’s launch as a “serious violation” of existing U.N. resolutions. A Japanese newspaper, Yomiuri Shimbun, reported that China was suspending its policy of sending back North Korean defectors, as punishment for Pyongyang's recent moves. But activists in South Korea who work with defectors have said they saw no evidence this was true.
Thousands of North Korean cross the more than 800-mile border each year into China, seeking to escape starvation in their impoverished homeland.
-- Barbara Demick
Photo: A North Korean vehicle seen last weekend in a parade in Pyongyang appears to be Chinese in design and origin, according to Jane’s Defense Weekly. Credit: David Guttenfelder / Associated Press