Pacific News Minute: Experts Watch North Korea’s Military Parade for New Missiles

Feb 8, 2018

A ballistic missile is shown off during North Korea's 2013 Victory Day parade.
Credit Stefan Krasowski / Wikimedia Commons

As you’ve heard on the NPR News, President Trump wants to hold a big military parade in Washington, D.C., inspired by the celebrations he saw in Paris last Bastille Day. North Korea showed off its military might in a big parade in Pyongyang yesterday. We have more from Neal Conan in the Pacific News Minute.

As it turned out, the parade to mark the 70th birthday of the North Korean Army was much more subdued than last year’s show. To begin with, it was not broadcast live. Intelligence analysts from around the world watched in frustration as North Korean TV showed replays of patriotic films and documentaries all day until finally showing highlights of the parade in the evening.

Unlike last year, there were no new missiles on display, but from the reviewing stand, Kim Jong Un looked down as four Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles trundled past. Last year, there were only two. But experts were also counting the specialized, nine axle trucks used to transport, erect and launch the big mobile missiles – they’re called TELs.

Credit Stefan Krasowski / Wikimedia Commons

Analyst Ankit Panda of The Diplomat noted that TELs are a bottle neck. North Korea could only fire as many missiles as it has launchers in a first strike, and would be unlikely to get a chance to reload. North Korea adapted Chinese logging trucks to make its first six TELs, but experts only saw those same six this year.

Analysts will continue to examine the footage, and try to answer some questions: can North Korea manufacture TELS on its own? Did leadership downplay the parade to send a conciliatory message on the eve of the Olympic Games? Or did a smaller parade simply conserve dwindling supplies of fuel?