WASHINGTON ― On the eve of the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics, North Korea paraded its military arsenal through its capital in celebration of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Korean People’s Army. Although much smaller than last years April 15 parade, the show offered a rare glimpse into the secretive country’s military.
North Korea and missiles wonks have already gleaned several insights in the country’s evolving military capabilities.
Some of North Korea’s missiles, including the Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile, were rolled out on nine-axle TELs (transporter, erector and launcher). The TELs were configured to carry missiles by modifying Chinese WS512000 logging trucks, which are in short supply in the hermit kingdom.
Analysts pointed out that the three Hwasong-14 ICBMs that preceded its larger cousin were transported on semitruck tractor trailers, rather than TELs. North Korea is known to have at least six WS512000 trucks, and their scarcity is a known limitation of the country’s ICBM programs.
Six Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missiles, the type of missile North Korea threatened to shoot at U.S. military installations in Guam in August 2017, and six KN-15, or Pukguksong-2, solid-fueled medium-range ballistic missiles also rumbled through the streets of Pyongyang.
Seemingly the only newcomer that debuted in the parade was what appears to be an upgraded KN-02 short-range ballistic missile.
Some analysts believe the twin-missile TEL shares some features of the Russian 9K720 Iskander short-range ballistic missile, but it could also be a KN-02 extended-range variant. Although smaller systems like the KN-02 do not normally grab headlines, these missiles would feature heavily in any conflict on the Korean Peninsula.
North Korea also showed off its 120mm M1993, 240mm M1991 and 300mm KN-09 multiple launch rocket systems. These rocket artillery systems could be derived from Russian BM-21 Grad and Chinese Type 63 rocket artillery, according to the CSIS Missile Defense Project.
Various types of tanks, standard artillery and mobile short-range air-defense systems also participated in the parade.
Despite the diversity of systems displayed, there were several notable absences.
The down-sized parade could be a result of crippling sanctions targeting North Korean oil imports, but could also be a sign of improved inter-Korean relations.
For his part, U.S. President Donald Trump has reportedly had conversations with Pentagon leaders about the possibility of hosting a massive military parade in the United States.
Daniel Cebul is an editorial fellow and general assignments writer for Defense News, C4ISRNET, Fifth Domain and Federal Times.