Jeffrey LewisMore on DPRK TELs

We’ve had a lively discussion about the Chinese-manufactured WS51200 TEL that showed up in the DPRK’s April 15 military parade, carrying something very pointy.  I wanted to weigh in with a few observations about the Wanshan Special Vehicle Company, the WS51200 model, the MTCR and TELs in general.

1.

First, let’s be clear about who makes the WS51200.  The Hubei Sanjiang Space Wanshan Special Vehicle Co is wholly-owned subsidiary of the state-run China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation, which manufactures ballistic missiles for the Chinese military.  This is not some obscure vehicle manufacturer in China: this is a state-owned defense firm.

Late update | 24 April 2012 Oh, I hate being wrong — but I have to conclude that the sales figures for flatbed transporters probably refer to a different line of products than the WS-series, leaving us back at square one on WS-series sales.  I still suspect that, until North Korea placed its order, the WS-series existed to serve the needs of a single customer: The People’s Liberation Army.  But I overlooked the other parts of the civilian business.

As far as I can tell, three or four Chinese ballistic missiles use Wanshan TELs: the DF-11, DF-16, DF-21 and probably the DF-31.  According to sales data cumulative to 2007 and 2009, Wanshan seems to sell about 50 vehicles are year.  Looking at the expansion in launchers for DF-11, DF-16 and DF-21 and DF-31 TELs, my best guess is that Wanshan has no civilian customers.

According to the website, we know the Wanshan Special Vehicle Company had sold 100 vehicles by 2007 and 200 vehicles by 2009.

Those numbers coincide pretty closely with the added launchers reported in the annual Chinese Military Power, published by the Department of Defense.  By my calculation, China added 90-100 launches of these four types in 2008-2009, precisely what Wanshan reports as its sales over the same period.

Selected Chinese 2008 2009 Total (2008-2009)
DF-11 20 10 30
DF-16 10 0 10
DF-21 20 10-30 30-40
DF-31 20 0 20
Total 70 20-40 90-110

The numbers for the preceding period — though 2007 — also work out closely (90-100) if you count all the DF-21s as getting shiny new TELs. There is a lot of rounding here and there, so take all this with a grain of salt.  Still, the overall point is very clear: To a first approximation, until North Korea placed its order, the Wanshan Special Vehicle existed to serve the needs of a single customer: The People’s Liberation Army.

2.

Second, let’s also be clear about how the Wanshan Special Vehicle Co. came to be Northeast Asia’s leading manufacturer of transporter-erector-launchers.

In 199, the United States spotted a Belarus-manufactured MAZ 547V sitting outside at Nanyuan.  The MAZ 547V is the TEL for the SS-20.  Wanshan most likely used this TEL as part of its development of the WS-series and the external resemblances are evident.

The United States was clear at the time that the MAZ 547V was a Category II system under the MTCR. (Neither Belarus nor China were, or are, members of the MTCR.)  Belarus officials confirmed the sale and did not dispute the origin of the MAZ 547V, explaining that “The chassis was designed as a missile launcher but is now sold primarily as an ‘off-road truck’ used in hauling jet fuel at airfields or coal from mines.” Given the appearance of the TEL at a missile production facility, Chinese officials clearly were not using it to haul coal.

US law did not provide for sanctions on the transfer of Category II systems (which are subject to less restrictive criteria than Category I items), so the US simply complained to Belarus.

3.

The MTCR Annex clearly controls “Vehicles designed or modified for the transport, handling, control, activation and launching of the systems specified in 1.A” as a Category II item.  This is the verabatim language used in the UNSCR sanctions document on North Korea, which make no distinction as far as I can tell between Cat I and II systems.

The important phrase is “designed or modified.”  The MTCR Annex actually defines that phrase, a definition the relevant UNSCR sanctions document also repeats verbatim:

(a)         “Designed or modified” describes equipment, parts or components which, as a result of “development,” or modification, have specified properties that make them fit for a particular application. “Designed or modified” equipment, parts, components or “software” can be used for other applications. For example, a titanium coated pump designed for a missile may be used with corrosive fluids other than propellants.

Notice that the example given — a titanium coated pump — demonstrates that legitimate civilian applications do not alter the controlled nature of the item.  The only test is whether a TEL has ” have specified properties that make them fit for a particular application.”  Possible civilian uses are irrelevant to this discussion.

There are a number of modifications to a TEL beyond the very rugged chassis designed to preserve the missile while traveling off-road.  The MTCR Handbook gives, as an example, the integration of an erector in the chassis.  The news reporting related to the Belarus sale listed other possibilities: all-wheel independent suspension, higher ground clearance, driver-controlled central tire inflation and deflation systems; and large-diameter, wide-profile, variable-inflation tires.

Driver-controlled central tire inflation and deflation systems is my favorite.  Did you know tire inflation systems are on the US munitions list?

The point is that a vehicle like this is designed with a number of special features that distinguish it from a run-of-the-mill off-road vehicle.  The existence of a few civilian applications for the same technologies does not change the fact that the item is controlled.

4.

Finally, let me close by noting that the sale of launch support vehicles is not a trivial matter.

North Korea, as this MTCR paper distributed by the United States makes clear, is dependent on foreign suppliers for heavy-duty vehicle chassis. (Warning: Wikileaks!)

In 2011, Joe Bermudez reported that North Korea’s “Second Machine Industry Bureau oversaw the contract with Chinese firms for the development and production of TELs and support vehicles based upon Minsk Automobile Plant (MAZ) designs (for example, the MAZ-543) for the Nodong, Musudan and Taepodong/Unha systems.”

The Chinese executing the contract certainly knew who they were dealing with and why. Rugged, off-road TELs dramatically increase the area in which North Korea can move its ballistic missile force. Over the past few years, North Korea appears to be investing in an actual, deployed missile force that is more than a mere abstract capability. TELs are an important element of such a capability.

The best account of this transformation is Joe Bermudez’s June 2011 article in Jane’s Intelligence Review entitled, “Behind the lines – North Korea’s ballistic missile units.”

 

 

Comments

  1. Jeffrey (History)

    The Washington Times

    June 12, 1997, Thursday, Final Edition

    Missile-related technology sold to Beijing by Belarus;
    U.S. spy satellite photographed transporter in China

    BYLINE: Bill Gertz; THE WASHINGTON TIMES

    SECTION: Part A; NATION; Pg. A9

    LENGTH: 923 words

    Belarus is assisting China’s development of a new mobile intercontinental ballistic missile by providing key launcher-related technology and equipment, The Washington Times has learned.

    The transfer of a Belarussian MAZ chassis, photographed by a U.S. spy satellite at Chinese missile plant last year, directly supports a new Chinese ICBM that will give Beijing a “major strike capability” against the western United States as well as U.S. allies and American forces in the Pacific within three years, according to a U.S. military intelligence report.

    The move, confirmed by a Belarussian diplomat here, could also trigger economic sanctions against both countries under U.S. anti-proliferation laws.

    According to the report by the Air Force National Air Intelligence Center, the presence of the six-axle chassis at the Beijing Nanyuan missile plant “suggests some relationship between this vehicle and the DF-31 program.”

    The DF-31 is China’s newest and most advanced mobile ICBM, which the Air Force estimates will be deployed in the next three years. With a range of up to 5,000 miles, the new multiple-warhead missile could reach the western United States, as well as targets across Asia and the Pacific region, the report said.

    The intelligence report, labeled “secret,” says the chassis was made at the Minsk Automotive Factory in Belarus, known by its Russian acronym as a MAZ.

    “The mobility of the MAZ is significantly better than that of heavy Chinese vehicles,” according to the report. “For that reason, the Chinese will probably reverse-engineer the MAZ vehicle to better understand its superior characteristics.”

    The report said the MAZ is the same design as the chassis used in Soviet intermediate-range SS-20 nuclear missiles, which were dismantled under the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty.

    “Improved mobility is needed for the DF-31 TEL [transporter-erector launcher],” the report says, noting that the current DF-31 is limited to travel on surfaced roads. “Improved chassis features will in turn improve off-road capabilities, increasing the number of potential deployment locations.”

    Disclosure of the Belarussian-Chinese cooperation comes as Congress continues debate on whether to renew most-favored-nation trade status for Beijing.

    Valentin Rybakov, a diplomat at the Belarussian Embassy, confirmed this week that a MAZ chassis made in Minsk, Belarus, was sold to “a few countries, including China.”

    “This is actually a conversion project,” Mr. Rybakov said.

    The chassis was designed as a missile launcher but is now sold primarily as an “off-road truck” used in hauling jet fuel at airfields or coal from mines, Mr. Rybakov said.

    It could not be learned whether the administration has approached either the Minsk or Beijing governments about the transfer, or whether the missile technology transfer is under investigation.

    A 1990 amendment to the Arms Export Control Act requires the U.S. government to impose sanctions for missile equipment or technology transfers involving systems covered by the 29-nation Missile Technology Control Regime, which limits exports of missiles that travel greater than 186 miles or carry warheads heavier than 1,100 pounds.

    Belarus and China are not MTCR members, but the equipment in question is covered under the regime’s Category 2.

    “If the MAZ helps in the acquisition, design, development and production of a Category 1 system, it would trigger sanctions under the law,” said Richard Spier, a former government specialist on the MTCR.

    The DF-31 would fall under the MTCR’s Category 1, he said.

    An administration arms official said that he was unfamiliar with the report of the MAZ vehicle in China, but that the question of sanctions under U.S. law would depend on the type of vehicle sent.

    In past cases, Belarussian MAZ exports triggered U.S. diplomatic protests but fell short of requiring sanctions.

    The SS-20 chassis falls under Category 2 of the MTCR, which lists “launch support equipment,” the official said.

    All SS-20 launchers were supposed to have been dismantled under the INF treaty, but a second arms control official said the treaty does not prohibit exports of new SS-20 chassis without launcher equipment.

    Sven Kraemer, an NSC arms specialist during the Reagan administration, said exporting SS-20 MAZ vehicles would violate the spirit of the INF treaty, if not the letter.

    The SS-20 was a large, triple-warhead missile that if deployed with a single warhead would have had intercontinental range, according to experts. Thus the technology of the chassis would be useful in developing an ICBM.

    According to the Air Force report, the Chinese are not expected to convert the MAZ vehicle, which was photographed in China in May 1996, to an actual DF-31 launcher, but probably will copy key features to improve the mobility and performance of their existing mobile launchers.

    Among those features: all-wheel independent suspension, higher ground clearance, driver-controlled central tire inflation and deflation systems; and large-diameter, wide-profile, variable-inflation tires.

    Tire pressure controls are used in launch preparation.

    Since 1994, the administration has been reluctant to impose proliferation-related sanctions on China. Last month, however, it punished two Chinese firms with sanctions for selling chemical weapons materials.

    Since the breakup of the Soviet Union, Belarus’ Communist leaders have turned away from democracy toward dictatorship.

    • kme (History)

      If the Arms Export Control Act really does require the US Government to impose sanctions for violations of the MTCR, then it sure seems to be a requirement more honored in the breach than the observance. Presumably there is some wriggle-room for the executive there? (eg. an “unless the President deems the transfer to be in the national interest” type clause)?

    • Jeffrey (History)

      Yeah, that’s a little outside my lane. I should look that up.

    • Jeffrey (History)

      Yes, there is a waiver.

      (a) Sanctions
      (1) Subject to subsections (c) through (g) (!1) of this section,
      if the President determines that a foreign person, after November
      5, 1990, knowingly –
      (A) exports, transfers, or otherwise engages in the trade of
      any MTCR equipment or technology that contributes to the
      acquisition, design, development, or production of missiles in a
      country that is not an MTCR adherent and would be, if it were
      United States-origin equipment or technology, subject to the
      jurisdiction of the United States under this chapter,
      (B) conspires to or attempts to engage in such export,
      transfer, or trade, or
      (C) facilitates such export, transfer, or trade by any other
      person,
      or if the President has made a determination with respect to a
      foreign person under section 2410b(b)(1) of title 50, Appendix,
      then the President shall impose on that foreign person the
      applicable sanctions under paragraph (2).
      (2) The sanctions which apply to a foreign person under paragraph
      (1) are the following:
      (A) If the item involved in the export, transfer, or trade is
      within category II of the MTCR Annex, then the President shall
      deny, for a period of 2 years –
      (i) United States Government contracts relating to missile
      equipment or technology; and
      (ii) licenses for the transfer to such foreign person of
      missile equipment or technology controlled under this chapter.
      (B) If the item involved in the export, transfer, or trade is
      within category I of the MTCR Annex, then the President shall
      deny, for a period of not less than 2 years –
      (i) all United States Government contracts with such foreign
      person; and
      (ii) licenses for the transfer to such foreign person of all
      items on the United States Munitions List.
      (C) If, in addition to actions taken under subparagraphs (A)
      and (B), the President determines that the export, transfer, or
      trade has substantially contributed to the design, development,
      or production of missiles in a country that is not an MTCR
      adherent, then the President shall prohibit, for a period of not
      less than 2 years, the importation into the United States of
      products produced by that foreign person.
      (b) Inapplicability with respect to MTCR adherents
      (1) In general
      Except as provided in paragraph (2), subsection (a) of this
      section does not apply with respect to –
      (A) any export, transfer, or trading activity that is
      authorized by the laws of an MTCR adherent, if such authorization
      is not obtained by misrepresentation or fraud; or
      (B) any export, transfer, or trade of an item to an end user in
      a country that is an MTCR adherent.
      (2) Limitation
      Notwithstanding paragraph (1), subsection (a) of this section
      shall apply to an entity subordinate to a government that engages
      in exports or transfers described in section 2295a(b)(3)(A) of
      this title.
      (c) Effect of enforcement actions by MTCR adherents
      Sanctions set forth in subsection (a) of this section may not be
      imposed under this section on a person with respect to acts
      described in such subsection or, if such sanctions are in effect
      against a person on account of such acts, such sanctions shall be
      terminated, if an MTCR adherent is taking judicial or other
      enforcement action against that person with respect to such acts,
      or that person has been found by the government of an MTCR adherent
      to be innocent of wrongdoing with respect to such acts, and if the
      President certifies to the Committee on Foreign Relations of the
      Senate and the Committee on International Relations of the House of
      Representatives that –
      (1) for any judicial or other enforcement action taken by the
      MTCR adherent, such action has –
      (A) been comprehensive; and
      (B) been performed to the satisfaction of the United States;
      and
      (2) with respect to any finding of innocence of wrongdoing, the
      United States is satisfied with the basis for such finding.
      (d) Advisory opinions
      The Secretary of State, in consultation with the Secretary of
      Defense and the Secretary of Commerce, may, upon the request of any
      person, issue an advisory opinion to that person as to whether a
      proposed activity by that person would subject that person to
      sanctions under this section. Any person who relies in good faith
      on such an advisory opinion which states that the proposed activity
      would not subject a person to such sanctions, and any person who
      thereafter engages in such activity, may not be made subject to
      such sanctions on account of such activity.
      (e) Waiver and report to Congress
      (1) In any case other than one in which an advisory opinion has
      been issued under subsection (d) of this section stating that a
      proposed activity would not subject a person to sanctions under
      this section, the President may waive the application of subsection
      (a) of this section to a foreign person if the President determines
      that such waiver is essential to the national security of the
      United States.
      (2) In the event that the President decides to apply the waiver
      described in paragraph (1), the President shall so notify the
      Committee on Armed Services and the Committee on Foreign Relations
      of the Senate and the Committee on National Security and the
      Committee on International Relations of the House of
      Representatives not less than 45 working days before issuing the
      waiver. Such notification shall include a report fully articulating
      the rationale and circumstances which led the President to apply
      the waiver.
      (f) Presumption
      In determining whether to apply sanctions under subsection (a) of
      this section to a foreign person involved in the export, transfer,
      or trade of an item on the MTCR Annex, it should be a rebuttable
      presumption that such item is designed for use in a missile listed
      in the MTCR Annex if the President determines that the final
      destination of the item is a country the government of which the
      Secretary of State has determined, for purposes of 2405(j)(1)(A)
      (!2) of title 50, Appendix, has repeatedly provided support for
      acts of international terrorism.
      (g) Additional waiver
      The President may waive the imposition of sanctions under
      paragraph (1) on a person with respect to a product or service if
      the President certifies to the Congress that –
      (1) the product or service is essential to the national
      security of the United States; and
      (2) such person is a sole source supplier of the product or
      service, the product or service is not available from any
      alternative reliable supplier, and the need for the product or
      service cannot be met in a timely manner by improved
      manufacturing processes or technological developments.
      (h) Exceptions
      The President shall not apply the sanction under this section
      prohibiting the importation of the products of a foreign person –
      (1) in the case of procurement of defense articles or defense
      services –
      (A) under existing contracts or subcontracts, including the
      exercise of options for production quantities to satisfy
      requirements essential to the national security of the United
      States;
      (B) if the President determines that the person to which the
      sanctions would be applied is a sole source supplier of the
      defense articles and services, that the defense articles or
      services are essential to the national security of the United
      States, and that alternative sources are not readily or
      reasonably available; or
      (C) if the President determines that such articles or
      services are essential to the national security of the United
      States under defense coproduction agreements or NATO Programs
      of Cooperation;
      (2) to products or services provided under contracts entered
      into before the date on which the President publishes his
      intention to impose the sanctions; or
      (3) to –
      (A) spare parts,
      (B) component parts, but not finished products, essential to
      United States products or production,
      (C) routine services and maintenance of products, to the
      extent that alternative sources are not readily or reasonably
      available, or
      (D) information and technology essential to United States
      products or production.

    • kme (History)

      Thanks for digging that up – that’s actually very instructive about the mechanics of MTCR enforcement.

  2. Sam (History)

    I thought China was not part of MTCR?

    If it was, would this be a worse contravention of MTCR than UK giving cruise missiles to Saudis?

    Also, the relevant UNSCR (I think) has “calls on” and not “requires” so it is optional for states to comply(?) — just like UNSCR 487 has “calls on” that are unenforceable. (And unenforced).

    • Jeffrey (History)

      Strike 1: The sanctions use the MTCR guidelines, so for North Korea all states are bound to abide by them. (China is a permanent member of the Security Council, by the way, and could have vetoed the resolution.)

      Strike 2: Violating a sanctions resolution is worse than violating a voluntary agreement.

      Strike 3: The word is “decides” not “calls on.”

      You’re out.

    • Sam (History)

      Thank you. I was puzzled because I have this from the text:

      http://www.cfr.org/proliferation/un-security-council-resolution-1874-north-korea/p19625

      “7. Calls upon all Member States to implement their obligations pursuant to
      resolution 1718 (2006), including with respect to designations made by the
      Committee established pursuant to resolution 1718 (2006) (“the Committee”)
      pursuant to the statement of its President of 13 April 2009 (S/PRST/2009/7);”

      So it seems it is “calls on” as regards not exporting sensitive stuff to NK(?)

      Also:

      “11. Calls upon all States to inspect, in accordance with their national
      authorities and legislation, and consistent with international law, all cargo to and
      from the DPRK, in their territory, including seaports and airports, if the State
      concerned has information that provides reasonable grounds to believe the cargo
      contains items the supply, sale, transfer, or export of which is prohibited by
      paragraph 8 (a), 8 (b), or 8 (c) of resolution 1718 or by paragraph 9 or 10 of this
      resolution, for the purpose of ensuring strict implementation of those provisions;

      12. Calls upon all Member States to inspect vessels, with the consent of the
      flag State, on the high seas, if they have information that provides reasonable
      grounds to believe that the cargo of such vessels contains items the supply, sale,
      transfer, or export of which is prohibited by paragraph 8 (a), 8 (b), or 8 (c) of
      resolution 1718 (2006) or by paragraph 9 or 10 of this resolution, for the purpose of
      ensuring strict implementation of those provisions;

      13. Calls upon all States to cooperate with inspections pursuant to
      paragraphs 11 and 12, and, if the flag State does not consent to inspection on the
      high seas, decides that the flag State shall direct the vessel to proceed to an
      appropriate and convenient port for the required inspection by the local authorities
      pursuant to paragraph 11;”

      Seems to be a mix of “decides”, “calls on”, and “requires”…can you clarify if specific things are required not to be exported to NK, or merely called upon?

      Thank you,
      Sam

    • Jeffrey (History)

      Sorry, I was being flip. I shouldn’t be such a dick. UNSCR 1718 (2006) is the initial articulation:

      “8. Decides that:

      (a) all Member States shall prevent the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer to the DPRK, through their territories or by their nationals, or using their flag vessels or aircraft, and whether or not originating in their territories, of:

      (i) any battle tanks, armoured combat vehicles, large calibre artillery systems, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships, missiles or missile systems as defined for the purpose of the United Nations Register on Conventional Arms, or related materiel including spare parts, or items as determined by the Security Council or the Committee established by paragraph 12 below (the Committee);

      (ii) all items, materials, equipment, goods and technology as set out in the lists in documents S/2006/814 and S/2006/815, unless within 14 days of adoption of this resolution the Committee has amended or completed their provisions also taking into account the list in document S/2006/816, as well as other items, materials, equipment, goods and technology, determined by the Security Council or the Committee, which could contribute to DPRK’s nuclear-related, ballistic missile-related or other weapons of mass destruction-related programmes;

      (iii)luxury goods;”

      Available at: http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2006/sc8853.doc.htm Note that S/2006/815 is the MTCR Annex.

    • Sam (History)

      OK, got it. Thank you.

      It would have been better — and legally more airtight — if UNSCR 1874 did not say it calls upon member states to implement 1718 provisions, but rather decides for them to do so. Otherwise, it may (does) unintentionally seem to water-down 1718, since 1874 came after 1718. Anyway, yes, the spirit of 1718/1874 seems to want a strict adherence.

  3. Anon2 (History)

    Jeffrey and Wonks,

    What do we make of this statement by NK as reported by VOA today:

    “The country’s central television station interrupted programming Monday to read an unusual announcement from a unit of the army’s supreme command. It said the military would take “special actions” that would reduce the government of President Lee Myung-bak and his supporters to ashes in minutes, utilizing “unprecedented peculiar means and methods.”

    From:
    http://blogs.voanews.com/breaking-news/2012/04/23/north-korea-issues-military-threat-to-south/

    (Sorry, but I have no idea how to make it “clickable”.)

    It has been reported by numerous other members of the press as a quick Google News search will show.

    They can’t be serious. So why say it?

    If they are serious and have say 10 nukes on TELs ready to fire (and reduce SK to ashes), why pre-announce the first strike?

    Thanks,

    Anon2

  4. A Complete Stranger (History)

    I know, exporting TELs are prohibited by the MTCR and contributing to North Korea’s missile program–which selling them TELs does–is proscribed by the UNSC.

    But, on a purely personal level, I find it hard to get excited by the export of TELs. I keep thinking “they are trucks.” I guess that disqualifies me from ever working for the commerce department on export controls. But I also find that possibility about as exciting as TELs.

    • Jeffrey (History)

      If they started building silos for them, would say it’s just concrete?

      The TEL (maybe we should call if the launcher) is an integral part of the weapons system, if it breaks down or vibrates the missile to death, that’s a mission kill.

  5. zap (History)

    So apparently the engine for the TEl is supplied by the American diesel engine manufacturer Cummins Inc and the automatic transmission is supplied by German’s ZF Friedrichshafen , so it seems the Chinese only supplied a ladder chassis and cab

    “Strike 1: The sanctions use the MTCR guidelines, so for North Korea all states are bound to abide by them. (China is a permanent member of the Security Council, by the way, and could have vetoed the resolution.)

    Strike 2: Violating a sanctions resolution is worse than violating a voluntary agreement.

    Strike 3: The word is “decides” not “calls on.”

    You’re out.”

    so who is out exactly ?

    • Jeffrey (History)

      The chassis is the interesting part, not the engine.

  6. Jan (History)

    The argument that Wanshan knew that they were selling controlled items to the North Koreans is convincing. However, how likely is it that they did so without some sort of official approval? Isn’t is unlikely that they could have gone ahead with the sale without approval from at least high-ranking leaders in the PLA? And could elements within the PLA have gone rogue on this?

  7. P (History)

    There is no doubt in my mind that the UN panel should investigate the case. And the Chinese government should investigate it too and ensure that this does happen again, following the example of Germany’s reaction to Iran and Syria using German trucks to pull missiles. (Thanks for reminding me of Wikileaks, searching for ‘chassis’ and ‘MTCR’ gave several relevant examples). Jan’s questions are the key ones to ask.

    Just read some more background by Charbonneau on the issue, including claims that the vehicles were bought via a front company outside North Korea. If true, this discussion will be quite different.
    http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/sns-rt-us-korea-north-chinabre83n05s-20120423,0,7020376.story

    By now this story seems ready to be overtaken by more important news:
    http://uk.reuters.com/article/2012/04/24/uk-korea-north-nuclear-idUKBRE83N07620120424

    But as a dedicated wonk, some responses to the Jeffrey’s analysis:

    ‘According to the website, we know the Wanshan Special Vehicle Company had sold 100 vehicles by 2007 and 200 vehicles by 2009.’

    Not just ‘vehicles’, but by 2009 ‘the total flatbed transporters manuafactured by Sanjiang Wanshan reached 200’

    http://www.wstech.com.cn/en/showcp.asp?id=578 shows an example of what I believe (not sure of course, cannot read their minds) Wanshan means with ‘flatbed transporter’. ‘WANSHAN Hubei Sanjiang Space Wanshan Special Vehicle CO., Ltd.
    Is a core factory of SANJIANG Group, Which is the leading manuafacturer of heavy-duty off-road vehicles. Its products covers heavy hydraulic flatbed transporters, heavy-duty off-road chassis and off road dumper lorries. ‘
    The WS51200 is referred to by Wanshan as Heavy-duty Special off-road Vehicle, not as flat bed transporter. So the 200 seems to refer to something else than TEL chassis.

    ‘my best guess is that Wanshan has no civilian customers.’
    But on the website you quote Wanshan actually says: ‘The first exported heavy shipyard transporter was delivered to korean customer. Two double twist machines were delivered to the Czech Republic.’ Seems civlian customers to me.

    More important http://www.wstech.com.cn/en/ shows plenty of very civilian Wanshan products like
    http://www.wstech.com.cn/en/showcp.asp?id=540
    http://www.wstech.com.cn/en/showcp.asp?id=553
    http://www.wstech.com.cn/en/showcp.asp?id=579
    http://www.wstech.com.cn/en/showcp.asp?id=563

    ‘The Hubei Sanjiang Space Wanshan Special Vehicle Co is wholly-owned subsidiary of the state-run China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation, which manufactures ballistic missiles for the Chinese military. This is not some obscure vehicle manufacturer in China: this is a state-owned defense firm.’
    Yes, but it is also a (significant?) producer of civilian products which wants to expand on the export market. Just like AVIC produces combat aircraft and civilian airliners. Or like Boeing (al´though private) being the largest or so arms producer in the world and the largest (or so) airliner producer in the world. True of course, as a producer of military products they should be extra aware of export controls.

    ‘There are a number of modifications to a TEL beyond the very rugged chassis designed to preserve the missile while traveling off-road. The MTCR Handbook gives, as an example, the integration of an erector in the chassis’.

    But the handbook says: ‘The distinguishing feature of TELs de- signed for ballistic missiles is the presence of an erection mechanism capable of lifting the missile to a vertical position.’ Does that not mean that a chassis without a erection system is not a TEL? In the case of the TEL the MTCR lists talk about the whole system, not about the parts. Unlike the lists related to parts for e.g. missile? I get confused, I would say a Chinese export control official would be at least as confused.

    • Jeffrey (History)

      That is an interesting alternative for “flat bed transporter.” I wonder if the Chinese version is less ambiguous?

    • Jeffrey (History)

      I accept that I am wrong about the usage of flat-bed transporter and that, in context, it most likely refers to shipyard transporters.

    • Jeffrey (History)

      On the other hand, you’re missing the purpose of the MTCR Handbook:

      “This document is designed to assist in implementing export controls on MTCR Annex items. It explains what MTCR-controlled equipment and technologies are, how they are used, how they work, what other uses they may have, and what they look like.”

      The erector is given as an example of “what they look like” and not as an exclusive list of special properties. I linked to it only as an example of one obvious possible feature.

    • P (History)

      I might be very wrong about the MTCR handbook and list. But the fact is that we can have a long discussion about this issue and other MTCR issues and read the texts in different ways. Just like a text about flatbeds.

      The point with that is that it is very plausible that the export control system in China failed because of the nature of the good.
      Either the internal compliance officer at Wansha (some chinese companies seem to have those) or the Chinese export control officer on duty might have been as confused as me and several others with some knowledge present in this forum. I don’t know, but is the MTCT list available in Chinese? What does it say there? The difficulty of understanding these lists may result in the abovementioned concluding that the WS51200 is just a truck chassis and not a tank or missile or TEL, and thus not embargoed for any destination.

      Of course if the buyer is the DPRK Company for Producing Big Missiles they should just apply a catch all approach. Still dubious would be if the buyer is a DPRK construction company, but depending on which one and how to made their case I might give the Chinese the benefit of the doubt.

      But if the buyer is a front company in e.g. Cambodia (as suggested in one article) , well, that’s the kind of mistake which can happen to everyone. (And is much less a failure of arms export controls as let’s say US parts for F-14 combat aircraft being supplied via middlemen to Iran.)

      Also in the case of an export of WS51200 to a company in Cambodia I can understand why they boasted about the first sale of this new vehicle for the civilian market. And not to North Korea as the title (not the content) of this article claims in what seems an effort to make China look bad without good reason, which in turn counterproductive mud-casting:
      http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/sns-rt-us-korea-north-chinabre83n05s-20120423,0,7020376.story

    • Jeffrey (History)

      I see your point. Yes, it is possible that the North Koreans shipped used Cambodia as a transhipment point to evade customs officials.
      The Chinese have translated the MTCR list for their own regulations, but this is a rather obscure case.

      I can understand how a customs official might make a mistake, especially if the firm the attempted to disguise the sale, but I can’t imagine that Wanshan Special Vehicle didn’t know what it was doing.

      The part about the post that remains correct is that Wanshan has supplied about 200 WS-series TELs to the PLA. We just don’t know how many WS-series chassis in total they have produced over the same time period. (In other words, we don’t know if ten, fifty or ninety percent go to the PLA.)

      The WS51200, which is brand new, is just the latest in the series — I suspect for the DF-31. (There TELS in the Chinese parade look like they are for parades not off-road use. These look more like the real thing: http://images.defensetech.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Mysterymissilelauncher.jpg).

      So, the main point is probably still correct: The vehicles were primarily designed with one client in mind. I suspect, moreover, that there are few, if any, civilian clients for the the WS-series or this specific model — a fact which, if true, would demonstrate intent. I’d really like to know what percentage of WS-production goes to civilian clients.

    • P (History)

      just yo be clear, you mean intent on the side of Wanshan?

  8. Anon (History)

    BTW, A most enlightening article by Pincus in WaPo:

    “The United States needs a consistent position on nonproliferation if its efforts to lower the nuclear weapons threat is to be taken seriously.”

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/washington-double-talk-on-nukes/2012/04/23/gIQAzQhCdT_print.html

  9. NoName (History)

    The MTCR Annex was poorly drafted. The following language:

    “Designed or modified” equipment, parts, components or “software” can be used for other applications. For example, a titanium coated pump designed for a missile may be used with corrosive fluids other than propellants.

    can be interpreted in either one of two ways.

    Firstly, as expressly providing that “Designed or modified equipment…” CAN be used for other applications. The same text can then be read as providing an explicit example of equipment that can be used.

    Secondly, the “can” fragment can be interpreted in the manner you’ve indicated.

    Bad drafting.

    • Jeffrey (History)

      Not to nitpick, but just putting CAN in allcaps doesn’t make clear your alternate meaning.

      The only alternate interpretation I can imagine relates to the difference between “can” (ability) and “may” (permission, as in Mother, may I?) but since the MTCR controls exports not component usage, that is irrelevant.

  10. Steph (History)

    Not to move away from the enjoyable MTCR related discussion above, but it is important to note that China actually controls these TELs on their own dual-use control lists (http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/chn/pds/ziliao/zt/ywzt/wzzt/2290/2292/t10500.htm).

    So apart from the fact that this is a violation of the relavant UNSCRs it is also–even without those–an obvious violation of China’s own domestic laws controlling dual-use tade. Wanshan — as part of CASIC — should have known this export required a license so either they ignored the laws completely (most likely) or the Chinese Commerce Ministry granted a license for this transfer to North Korea (really not likely.)

    Politically connected companies don’t tend to get hammered in the Chinese system for ignoring export control rules–Beijing tends to only publicly punish small, privately owned companies. What will be interesting in this case is whether there are any indications of ramifications inside CASIC or Wanshan. Since this trade became so public so dramatically it will be hard to ignore in Beijing.

    • P (History)

      I cannot read Chinese and would not trust google to give me an accurate translation. Can you confirm it says TEL or something like ‘heavy transport truck’ or ‘special vehicle chassis’? Is it clear enough that certain chassis are not OK to export without permit?

      The point about the big Chinese state companies getting hammered is interesting. Was it not an indication that some change is taking place in that regard when last year the Chinese ministry of foreign affairs openly admitted that several Chinese major companies (like NORINCO) had been in contact with Libyan officers about possible arms supplies in violation of the UN arms embargo on Libya and without permission from the Chinese government? Or was that just a case of the evidence (detailed documents found on the street in Tripoli) being to obvious to deny.

    • Jeffrey (History)

      I can ask our Chinese speakers, but it is a verbatim translation into Chinese. Whether the rendering is elegant or not will be hard to assess.

      I don’t know enough about the Libyan case. The evidence was very clear, but as Bo Xilai demonstrates powerful people pursuing their own ends can run afoul of the government.

      On intent, I mean that Wanshan certainly had to wonder who wanted to buy the pretty TEL they designed for the DF-31.

    • Ian (History)

      Chinese government officials state often that they comply with MTCR guidelines even though they are not members; the MTCR list is adopted into the Chinese export control list..

    • Cthippo (History)

      On intent, I mean that Wanshan certainly had to wonder who wanted to buy the pretty TEL they designed for the DF-31.

      I’m wondering about the assertion that the WS51200 is used for the DF-31. I made an admittedly cursory Google search for pictures of DF-31 TELs and all I’ve found are images of them on the eight axle articulated TELs, as opposed to the rigid frame WS series.

      http://www.ausairpower.net/DF-31A-ICBM-TEL-2009-3S.jpg shows an example of the DF-31 TEL.

      http://img209.imageshack.us/img209/8149/dfxxyq3.jpg This image, which the poster claims is a DF-31A shows the missile on a 5 axle rigid frame TEL, as opposed to the 8 axles of the WS51200 chassis. If I had to guess, I would say the (alledged) DF-31A is on a WS2600 chassis.

      It appears that the WS51200 also comes in a 6 axle flavor, but again I can’t find any pictures of one carrying a Chinese missile.

    • Jeffrey (History)

      You are absolutely correct. I’ve been meaning a post on this, because this is an argument I need to make.

      The DF-31 thought is very notional — in the post I wrote “probably the DF-31.” This is the basis for that somewhat controversial judgement:

      The DF-31 TEL on parade is obviously a more classically “Chinese” TEL. This image is a nice example: http://img514.imageshack.us/img514/9268/df31aoct1.jpg You are completely correct that all the pictures look more or less like this.

      The DF-21 used to have the same style TEL as well: http://www.ausairpower.net/DF-21-TEL-1S.jpg

      Then Wanshan started producing MAZ-like TELs, and suddenly the DF-21 got a makeover: http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_0SOCGRWJHdU/THNyuU0KrCI/AAAAAAAABng/uvKD1HDnM3c/s1600/df21c_03large.jpg (The DF-15 got the same treatment as far as I can tell and the DF-11 seems to have always had a Wanshan-like TEL.)

      So, I suspect, sooner or later, the DF-31 will also get a spiffy new Wanshan TEL. This image has now appeared: http://images.defensetech.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Mysterymissilelauncher.jpg It’s really not definitive, but the best explanation that I can come up with is that Wanshan has made a new DF-31 TEL.

    • Cthippo (History)

      That in itself brings up some interesting questions.

      I found this snippet, probably a press release on the WS site:

      “The successfully delivery of WS51200,which is the largest Self-propelled Overload Special Off-road Transporter in China, filled the domestic blank on May 17th. During the inspection of this delivery, the consumer was very satisfied with the vehicle and indicated the possible of the next cooperation.

      According to the requirements of the consumer, WS51200, with the total weight of 122ton, adopted the bran-new overload chassis of WS series which is the largest in China. The successful manufacture of this vehicle fulfilled the practicality of the overload off-road series of WAN SHAN Company.”

      Assuming for a moment that you are correct and that the WS51200 chassis is designed to carry a DF-31 TEL, the the customer would be the PLA and the weight of the missile plus the chassis and the rest of the body work and support equipment weighs something under 122 tons. I can’t read Chinese, but this spec sheet (http://tuku.military.china.com/military/html/2012-04-16/197732_2102999.htm)seems to indicate that the chassis itself weighs 42 tons with a payload of 80 tons. According to Wikipedia, the missile itself weighs 42 tons, which leaves up to 40 tons for support equipment. Seems like overkill, but there may well be other factors at work. For those with more experience than I, do the ratios of these numbers sound right for a TEL?

      The other interesting bit is that only one customer is mentioned and the press release seems to indicate that the chassis was designed around the requirements of that customer. If the customer was the PLA that makes sense. So far though, we’ve only seen this chassis underneath North Korean missiles, so perhaps NK was the customer, but that seems less likely. The most likely possibility is that the chassis was designed for the PLA and the NKs tacked on an additional order. If that’s the case, then it’s reasonable to assume that the Chinese got theirs before the Koreans did, but so far only the NK ones have been publicly seen. Either Korea got the TELs built and mated the missiles (or mockups) to them first, or China got it done first but hasn’t bothered to tell anybody about it. I’m not sure what to think about these two possibilities. It seems unlikely that North Korea would be able to get a working TEL with a new missile out the door before China did with an existing missile, despite probably receiving their chassis after the PLA did. On the other hand, mating an existing missile to a new TEL doesn’t seem like such a big deal that the Chinese would try to keep it secret.

      All of this rests on the assumption that the WS51200 was intended for the DF-31. If that turns out to be false, then we’re back to square one.

    • Hippo1 (History)

      For what it is worth Jane’s believes that the chassis for the DF-31’s TEL is the Wanshan WS29000. This is a 12 x 12 vehicle and very different from the DPRK TEL. According to Jane’s it is based on technology provided by MZKT in Belarus. I suspect that Jane’s is deriving its information from the above cited Washington Times article.

      What I find curious is that most operational mobile ICBMs appear to be protected by a canister of some sort. The fact that the DPRK’s new missile is not and that the displayed TEL does not appear designed to carry one suggests that these missiles were meant for display rather than operational uses. Conversely, these TELs may not be intended for a cross-country mobile missile, but rather to move the system out of a protected bunker just prior to launch. This would fit the DPRK’s modus operandi for heavy artillery.

  11. Bruno (History)

    I concur with Ian : The Chinese 2001 export list do stick to the MTCR technical annex (with exception but launchers are not one of them). Such an export would then have to be approved by the ministry of defense and the ministry of trade before anything would be shipped to anyone.
    Now, there is always the possibility that the Norks could have used their procurement network’s agents and methodology to evade the export being detected. This is of course far fetched since the end use of such vehicle are cristal clear..

  12. P (History)

    I cannot read Chinese either, but
    http://tuku.military.china.com/military/html/2012-04-16/197732_2102999.htm
    is very interesting because it puts the WS51200 into a list of other civilian Wanshan products. Incl. for example what appears its 12X10 WS5650 little brother which is used in the oil industry:
    http://www.alibaba.com/product-gs/294157230/Desert_workover_rig.html
    http://trade.e-to-china.com/product-pCC3EEEC/Vehicle_chassis.html
    For example somewhere in ‘africa’
    http://www.wstech.com.cn/en/show.asp?id=700

    May be this is just a deception ploy, may be not in which case it is more likely the chassis was designed using civilian specs and (ostensibly?) for civilian use. Which may be also explains the use of US components?

    • P (History)

      To complete the picture of the civilian(?) WS series the link below goes to a word doc on the website of Sanjiang-Volat special vehicle Co. ltd ( http://sjwlt.com/ ), which is a JV between Sanjiang (part of CASIC) and Belarsussian Volat. The list shows a whole range of WS vehicles incl. the WS51200 as the heaviest one.

      三江瓦力特特种车辆有限公司产品资料
      sjwlt.com/upload/20111116224049.doc

    • Jeffrey (History)
    • blowback (History)

      I’ve come across the oilfield use elsewhere. MAZ use a design bureau called Titan. MAZ has a joint venture with the German truck manufacturer MAN. Recently a Dutch truck dealer had an advert for a large 8×8 MAN Titan oilfield truck for sale for 800,000 Euros which was eventually sold to a “Chinese oil company”. I assumed that the Titan was a reference to the model of truck or a subsidiary but could find no mention on MAN’s website of either. However, I now realize it was reference to the Titan design bureau which. So I think this was a branding excercise, MAN build quality trucks and Titan design big trucks.

      BTW, just about every truck manufacturer in the world produces military versions of their trucks as it is a very large market with demanding requirements. So the suggestion that there is something doubtful about a company that sells both civilian and military truck is spurious.

      Finally, I seem to recall that MAZ build these big trucks on a modular basis with a front end and then bolt on modules to extend the number of axles beyond the basic couple so, for example, to go from an 8×8 to a 12×12, you just add four axle modules. If this is true, what would stop the North Koreans from manufacturing their own reverse-engineered axle modules as they have the technical skills or even buying more trucks than they need and cannibalizing axle modules from one truck to put extend another.

  13. blowback (History)

    Everyone was looking at the TELs which meant few were looking at the missiles. Which is a shame because it turns out the missiles may be fakes and the trucks are the only things that are real.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-17867174

    • George William Herbert (History)

      You just cited a story that flowed out of inaccurate press coverage of the public discussion here…

      There are plenty of missile discussions going on.

  14. blowback (History)

    Apologies George – I looked through the relevant posts (not comments) and found no mention or update on this.

    • George William Herbert (History)

      I would expect it to be days or more before detailed public posts are made. Can’t rush everything to internet time…

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