10 Years of Illegal China-North Korea Nuclear Missile Cooperation

CommentaryApril 15 marks a decade of unpunished Chinese Communist Party (CCP) perfidy. That day in 2012 saw the first revelation that purpose-built Chinese large trucks were carrying North Korean intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). China was abetting North Korea’s ability to vaporize U.S. cities. Almost a decade later, on March 24, 2022, the third generation of that Chinese truck launched a new, larger North Korean ICBM which may soon be equipped with multiple nuclear warheads—an unprecedented level of nuclear terror enabled by the CCP. Their goals include deterring the United States from defending its allies Japan and South Korea, and creating a nuclear crisis to divert U.S. attention if the Chinese regime invades Taiwan. Let’s review some relevant history. Barely a month after North Korean leader Kim Jong Il died, his son and successor, Kim Jong Un, stood on the Pyongyang ledge reserved for VIPs, viewing the large military parade celebrating the 100th birthday of his grandfather, Kim Il Sung, the North’s first communist dictator. At a certain point in the parade, Kim Jong Un gave a triumphant glance to North Korean generals to his right. This happened at the point in the parade that features the first public view of six of North Korea’s then-largest ICBM, later identified as the Hwasong-13. A military vehicle carries what is believed to be an intermediary range ballistic missile during a military parade to mark the 100th birthday of former North Korean leader Kim Il-Sung in Pyongyang, North Korea, on April 15, 2012. (Pedro Ugarte/AFP/Getty Images) Underscoring the young dictator’s delight was that the Hwasong-13, soon identified as a full-scale mockup, was being carried by a unique conveyance—a new, never before revealed 16-wheel transporter erector launcher (TEL), one of the world’s largest missile trucks. Perhaps by design, it was Chinese netizens who first identified this truck. Just five days earlier, a brochure from the Sanjiang Special Vehicle Company of the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC) had been posted on the “FYJS” website. It was one of many Chinese military enthusiast web pages that the CCP shut down in 2021 to deny even this meager source of intelligence to Western countries that are now the targets of CCP aggression. Because of the posted Sanjiang/CASIC brochure, Chinese netizens were able to correctly identify the “North Korean” TEL as a version of the CASIC/Sanjiang WS2600, a version of the WS51200 TEL that is based on technology purchased from the Minsk Automobile Plant (MAZ) of Belarus. What was most important about this revelation was that the CCP—which since 1994 had led the “Six-Party Talks” ostensibly aimed at ending North Korea’s nuclear weapons programs—was committing a new level of evil that it was flaunting before the world. In violation of United Nations resolutions from 2006 and 2009 banning ballistic missile technology transfers to Pyongyang, China was helping one of the cruelest and most terror-prone dictatorships of the last century to deploy potentially nuclear-armed missiles. To design the TEL for North Korea, CASIC/Sanjiang required knowledge of North Korea’s new ICBM. This prompted legitimate questions as to whether CASIC or other Chinese missile companies were helping to design and produce the Hwasong-13 and other North Korean missiles. Several press reports on the Chinese TELs followed, starting with Jane’s Defence Weekly. Still, on April 19, 2012, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin rejected reports of the TEL transfer to North Korea, saying, “China consistently opposes the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their carriers.” But the administration of then-President Barack Obama was confused. Prompted by a letter dated April 17, 2012, from the International Assessment and Strategy Center, Congressman Michael Turner, then-chairman of the Strategic Forces Subcommittee of the House Armed Service Committee, on April 19 queried Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta about possible Chinese missile technology assistance to North Korea. U.S. President Barack Obama uses binoculars to look at North Korea from the Observation Post Ouellette in the Demilitarized Zone, which separates the two Koreas in the inter-Korean truce village of Panmunjom, South Korea, on March 25, 2012. (Yonhap News via Getty Images) Panetta said, “I’m sure there’s has been some help coming from China.” But the next day, on April 20, The New York Times quoted an unnamed “White House official” offering a shocking cover for China. “We think this is poor Chinese performance in sanctions implementation, and not willful proliferation,” said the [White House] official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the issue’s diplomatic delicacy. “The Chinese system is so sprawling and poorly organized that they are not good at enforcing sanctions.” Perhaps this official was refusing to acknowledge Beijing’s blatant proliferation becau

10 Years of Illegal China-North Korea Nuclear Missile Cooperation

Commentary

April 15 marks a decade of unpunished Chinese Communist Party (CCP) perfidy. That day in 2012 saw the first revelation that purpose-built Chinese large trucks were carrying North Korean intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). China was abetting North Korea’s ability to vaporize U.S. cities.

Almost a decade later, on March 24, 2022, the third generation of that Chinese truck launched a new, larger North Korean ICBM which may soon be equipped with multiple nuclear warheads—an unprecedented level of nuclear terror enabled by the CCP. Their goals include deterring the United States from defending its allies Japan and South Korea, and creating a nuclear crisis to divert U.S. attention if the Chinese regime invades Taiwan.

Let’s review some relevant history.

Barely a month after North Korean leader Kim Jong Il died, his son and successor, Kim Jong Un, stood on the Pyongyang ledge reserved for VIPs, viewing the large military parade celebrating the 100th birthday of his grandfather, Kim Il Sung, the North’s first communist dictator.

At a certain point in the parade, Kim Jong Un gave a triumphant glance to North Korean generals to his right. This happened at the point in the parade that features the first public view of six of North Korea’s then-largest ICBM, later identified as the Hwasong-13.

A military vehicle carries what is believed to be a class missile Intermediary Range Ballistic Missile during a military parade to mark the 100th birth of the country's founder Kim Il-Sung in Pyongyang on April 15, 2012. (Pedro Ugarte/AFP/Getty Images)
A military vehicle carries what is believed to be an intermediary range ballistic missile during a military parade to mark the 100th birthday of former North Korean leader Kim Il-Sung in Pyongyang, North Korea, on April 15, 2012. (Pedro Ugarte/AFP/Getty Images)

Underscoring the young dictator’s delight was that the Hwasong-13, soon identified as a full-scale mockup, was being carried by a unique conveyance—a new, never before revealed 16-wheel transporter erector launcher (TEL), one of the world’s largest missile trucks.

Perhaps by design, it was Chinese netizens who first identified this truck. Just five days earlier, a brochure from the Sanjiang Special Vehicle Company of the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC) had been posted on the “FYJS” website.

It was one of many Chinese military enthusiast web pages that the CCP shut down in 2021 to deny even this meager source of intelligence to Western countries that are now the targets of CCP aggression.

Because of the posted Sanjiang/CASIC brochure, Chinese netizens were able to correctly identify the “North Korean” TEL as a version of the CASIC/Sanjiang WS2600, a version of the WS51200 TEL that is based on technology purchased from the Minsk Automobile Plant (MAZ) of Belarus.

What was most important about this revelation was that the CCP—which since 1994 had led the “Six-Party Talks” ostensibly aimed at ending North Korea’s nuclear weapons programs—was committing a new level of evil that it was flaunting before the world.

In violation of United Nations resolutions from 2006 and 2009 banning ballistic missile technology transfers to Pyongyang, China was helping one of the cruelest and most terror-prone dictatorships of the last century to deploy potentially nuclear-armed missiles.

To design the TEL for North Korea, CASIC/Sanjiang required knowledge of North Korea’s new ICBM. This prompted legitimate questions as to whether CASIC or other Chinese missile companies were helping to design and produce the Hwasong-13 and other North Korean missiles.

Several press reports on the Chinese TELs followed, starting with Jane’s Defence Weekly. Still, on April 19, 2012, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin rejected reports of the TEL transfer to North Korea, saying, “China consistently opposes the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their carriers.”

But the administration of then-President Barack Obama was confused. Prompted by a letter dated April 17, 2012, from the International Assessment and Strategy Center, Congressman Michael Turner, then-chairman of the Strategic Forces Subcommittee of the House Armed Service Committee, on April 19 queried Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta about possible Chinese missile technology assistance to North Korea.

Epoch Times Photo
U.S. President Barack Obama uses binoculars to look at North Korea from the Observation Post Ouellette in the Demilitarized Zone, which separates the two Koreas in the inter-Korean truce village of Panmunjom, South Korea, on March 25, 2012. (Yonhap News via Getty Images)

Panetta said, “I’m sure there’s has been some help coming from China.”

But the next day, on April 20, The New York Times quoted an unnamed “White House official” offering a shocking cover for China.

“We think this is poor Chinese performance in sanctions implementation, and not willful proliferation,” said the [White House] official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the issue’s diplomatic delicacy. “The Chinese system is so sprawling and poorly organized that they are not good at enforcing sanctions.”

Perhaps this official was refusing to acknowledge Beijing’s blatant proliferation because barely two weeks earlier, on March 26, then-CCP leader Hu Jintao had participated in Obama’s Second Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul.

Then in mid-June 2012, Japan’s Asahi Shimbun, in a series of stories, revealed that Japanese officials had boarded one of the Chinese ships, Harmony Wish, that took four CASIC/Sanjiang TELs to the North Korean port of Nampo in August 2011. They also had seized shipping records attesting to the Chinese TEL transfer.

Asahi Shimbun then reported: “Japan, the United States, and South Korea had solid evidence to prove that China … had violated a U.N. Security Council resolution banning weapons exports to North Korea. … But the three countries decided not to pursue the matter in the Security Council. … The chief concern among the three nations was to prevent a third nuclear test by North Korea and alleviate tensions on the Korean Peninsula, and they needed Beijing’s help on that matter.”

Such naiveté could now cost millions of lives.

Since April 15, 2012, the CCP has helped North Korea acquire two more versions of the CASIC/Sanjiang TEL. In November 2017, the new Hwasong-15 was carried by an 18-wheel version of the CASIC TEL. The latest test of this same missile, on March 24, was carried by a 21-wheel version of the CASIC TEL.

It is very likely that in a repeat of CASIC’s leading role in equipping Pakistan to become a nuclear missile state—complete with intermediate-range, medium-range, and short-range ballistic missiles, long-range cruise missiles, and artillery rockets—CASIC and other Chinese missile companies have helped North Korea to acquire medium-range and short-range ballistic missiles, long-range cruise missiles, and artillery rockets.

Last September, North Korea tested a new hypersonic glide vehicle warhead that looks like China’s Dongfeng-17 hypersonic glide vehicle armed ballistic missile.

In January, North Korea tested a precision-guided missile warhead that looks like the one used by the CASIC Dongfeng-21C medium-range ballistic missile.

This warhead is the basis of the anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM) warhead used on the DF-21D and DF-26B ASBMs.

With appropriate satellite guidance cues that China could supply, North Korea may soon be able to conduct precision nuclear ASBM strikes against U.S. Navy nuclear aircraft carriers.

This decade of known and suspected Chinese assistance to North Korea’s missile and nuclear missile development has yet to result in a single U.S. sanction on China. In fact, starting in 2012, the United States should have been economically and politically isolating the CCP for abetting the creation of yet another nuclear missile terror state.

For the CCP, the lack of American punishment provided another demonstration of weakness that has diminished the American ability to deter aggression by the CCP and North Korea.

It also validates the CCP’s use of strategic deception. Over time, by such examples, China has learned that a timorous and gullible American leadership is of incalculable value as the CCP advances its goals in Asia and globally.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.


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Rick Fisher is a senior fellow at the International Assessment and Strategy Center.