16 Wheels of Controversy: April Parade Repercussions

By | April 22, 2012 | 2 Comments

The Sino-NK editorial team is presently like you, dear reader, in that it has been trying to keep up with the torrent of recent news surrounding China’s relations with North Korea.  But chronicling possible pivot points in more or less “real time” is not without its hazards, and pivot points can always lacerate the analyst.  From my own perspective here in Berlin, there is a great deal of Chinese documentation that needs to be chewed through, including the significant context of how China — both through its media and within the hothouse of its Politburo — is reinterpreting Kim Jong Un and the entire songun (先军/military-first) policy. 

Why, for instance, did the Chinese media open wide the gates of discussion of North Korean refugees in mid-March?  Why didn’t anyone proclaim a similar Chinese pivot on this issue back in November 2011, after Vice Premier Li Keqiang’s visit to Pyongyang and some less-than-completely-smooth PLA-KPA interactions?  (More on this last question in a forthcoming Dossier.)  How and why does the PRC mask its critiques of North Korea by blowing up fisheries confrontations with South Korea?  Has the Chinese Ambassador been in deep freeze or is he just chillin’?  But why flirt around with vapid rhetorical questions? Why not get to the documents? Assistant Editor Steven Denney has done just that, exploding out of academic blockade with information about one of the more salient recent controversies involving military technology and our two favorite states. — Adam Cathcart, Editor-in-Chief 

Chosun’s show of force during the centennial celebration a la 1970s Soviet Russia | Photo Courtesy of the Rodong Sinmun

16 Wheels of Controversy: April Parade Repercussions

by Steven Denney

According to Yonhap News Agency, South Korea is asking for China to verify whether a 16-wheel transporter-erector-launcher (TEL), which was seen rolling down central Pyongyang during the centennial celebrations on April 15, is of Chinese origin.  According to Ted Parsons of the IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, the similar design patterns reveal that the TEL is “a design from the 9th Academy of the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation.”

Suggesting that China, North Korea’s only credible military and economic ally, is providing assistance to the North Korea military would not be an issue worth the number of news reports and commentary it’s receiving if the action weren’t in violation of UN Security Council Resolutions 1718 and 1874, implies this article from the Hankyoreh.  The sanctions against North Korea, starting in 2006, explicitly prohibit states from providing North Korea with items related to ballistic missiles, such as a TEL.

The situation, as its reported now, beckons two questions that, if properly addressed, that could either diffuse or heighten any tension that has arisen over accusations that China is providing North Korea with missile technology:

  1. If the Chinese sold the TEL directly to North Korea, was it done prior to 2006, when UN Security Resolution 1718 was adopted?
  2. Assuming that the TEL is a design based on the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (and thus of Chinese origin), could the TEL have been imported from Pakistan, who is both an “ally” of North Korea and China, and has received military, economic and technical assistance from Beijing?

What will be done?  If the US reaction, particularly that of US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, is any indication, one shouldn’t expect much.  Panetta’s answer to questions from the House armed services committee about China’s assistance to North Korea’s missile technology programme is probably best described as ambiguously accusatory, indicating next to nothing will be done.  His statement:

“I’m sure there’s been some help coming from China. I don’t know, you know, the exact extent of that,” Panetta told members of the House Armed Services Committee when asked whether China had been supporting North Korea’s missile program through “trade and technology exchanges”.

2 Comments

  1. Marcus Noland, bah. Mike Turner, bah. Leon Panetta, bah.

    If someone fires a shot at someone (on second thought, North Korea hadn’t even fired a shot at anybody), instead of apprehending the person who fires the shot, the manufacturer, the company that holds the original design of the gun, which was copied after by other companies, should be held responsible?

    Agni V vs. Unha 3. When it comes to North Korea, everyone seems to enjoy bathing in a ton of hypocrisy. Bah.

  2. I’m not one for the establishment, either. Unfortunately, they usually call the shots and have the money.

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