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Apr 15, 2017 | 16:10 GMT

North Korea: Annual Parade Showcases New Military Hardware

The annual Day of the Sun parade took place amid speculation of a new nuclear test and possible U.S. military response.
(Stratfor)

North Korea's 2017 Day of the Sun military parade marking the 105th anniversary of the birth of the nation's founder Kim Il Sung showcased new military hardware as shown on broadcasts by state-owned Korean Central Television. Leader Kim Jong-un attended the ceremony. The parade was the focus of greater international attention this year: Signs suggest that North Korea is preparing for another nuclear test and that such a test might provoke a U.S. response.

During the parade, North Korea's military rolled out two of its relatively successful missile systems: the Pukguksong-2 submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) and the Pukguksong-2 tracked medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM). Both have previously been tested successfully. Submarine launch capabilities are particularly important to North Korea. Fully developing this technology would extend the reach of North Korean nuclear missile systems and improve the country's second-strike capability in case its ground-based facilities are taken out.

North Korea Nuclear Timeline

The military also rolled out what appear to be a number of intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) variants. (Given safety considerations, as with most military parades the equipment on display was likely a highly accurate model of the real system.) The familiar road-mobile KN-08/KN-14 were shown but appeared to have been slightly modified. The military also showcased two new ICBM variants not seen before in both canisters and atop wheeled transporter erector launchers (TEL).

It is difficult to judge the capacity or credibility of the North Korean missiles from the parade alone but what is clear is that the military is continuing to focus heavily on their development. The ICBMs in particular are still a question mark. We are seeing a transition to solid fuel for ICBMs and it is interesting to note that both the Pukguksong variants that have been successful have been solid-fueled.

Many of the vehicles have been mated with tracked transporter erector launchers (TELs), even Scud types. Given that North Korea has only about 500 kilometers (around 300 miles) of paved road, tracked TELs are even more important for mobility and therefore survivability. The big question now is upcoming or future tests - whether any of these ICBM models will be tested and how successful they will be. If they are, their solid-fueled nature could mean that North Korea is making quick advancements, perhaps exceeding the level expected until now.

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