Report: Probable missile launcher spotted at N. Korea parade practice

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SEOUL, Sept. 23 (UPI) — A vehicle that appears to be a carrier and launcher for a large-scale missile was spotted during practice for an upcoming parade in North Korea, according to U.S.-based website 38 North.

Commercial satellite imagery revealed a “probable missile-related vehicle” at the Mirim Parade Training Ground in Pyongyang, according to a report published Tuesday on the website, which provides analysis on North Korea under the umbrella of think tank The Stimson Center.

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The size and shape of the vehicle “suggests that it may be a transporter-erector-launcher (TEL) for a large missile,” the report said. “Alternatively, it could be a towed mobile-erector-launcher (MEL) with its truck-tractor attached.”

The resolution of the satellite imagery “precludes a clear determination” on the precise nature of the vehicle, but the report concluded that other uses are “unlikely in this particular location and circumstance.”

The vehicle appears to be roughly 65 feet long and 10 feet wide, large enough to carry a Hwasong intercontinental ballistic missile, the report said.

North Korea’s most powerful known ICBM, the Hwasong-15, was first tested in November 2017 and is believed to be capable of reaching the continental United States with a nuclear warhead.

Previous satellite analysis has shown rehearsals underway for a parade, expected to be held on Oct. 10 to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the founding of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea. North Korea has used parades in the past to show off its latest military hardware.

Analysts and South Korean officials have also speculated that North Korea could test a submarine-launched ballistic missile around the anniversary date due to activity seen at the country’s Sinpo South Shipyard.

At the end of 2019, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un warned of a “new strategic weapon” that would be coming soon. Pyongyang conducted a series of shorter-range missile and rocket tests in March and April of this year, but it is unclear how much the COVID-19 pandemic and heavy damage from a recent series of typhoons have impacted the country’s plans.

Nuclear negotiations between Pyongyang and Washington have stalled since a summit with Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump held in Hanoi, Vietnam, last year failed to produce an agreement.

Trump urged the international community to continue to work toward full denuclearization of North Korea in a message delivered to the 2020 International Atomic Energy Agency general conference on Monday.

IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi said last week that there were indications North Korea was continuing to operate its nuclear facilities and was producing enriched uranium, which can be used as fuel for nuclear weapons.