North Korea Reportedly Uses Converted Chinese Truck as Launch Vehicle for its Ballistic Missile Test

On July 5, 2017, media reports emerged that North Korea once again utilized vehicles manufactured by Chinese automotive company, Sinotruk, to transport and erect the intercontinental ballistic missile Pyongyang claims to have successfully launched on July 4, 2017.  Sinotruk is a Hong Kong-registered subsidiary of state-controlled China National Heavy Duty Truck Group Company (CNHTC).

Although the photographed military truck was camouflaged in paint, it was similar to trucks identified in previous parades in 2012 and 2013 by a UN Panel as “most likely” converted Chinese timber trucks.  According to the UN Panel, this particular Sinotruk vehicle was imported in 2013 under the pretense of civilian use.  The usage of this equipment in previous military parades and the most recent missile test, however, is further evidence of the lack of Chinese interdiction taking place with regard to dual-use equipment and technology making its way into the country.

Despite public denouncement of North Korea’s actions and indications of cutting back on trade with the totalitarian state, China’s trade turnover with North Korea grew by 37% in the first quarter of this year.  Apart from Sinotruk, state-controlled China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC) has also provided “civilian trucks” that have been used as missile carriers.  A March 2017 report issued by the Washington-based Institute of Science and International Security revealed that, in 2012, Pyongyang arranged the purchase of industrial equipment and materials in China, which included mercury and lithium hydroxide — substances with dual-use applicability that could not have been exported without government approval.

These are just the latest examples of Chinese entities enabling North Korea, including in the dual-use space, despite the country’s continued nuclear, missile and other provocations.  It is also evidence of how large Chinese companies, ostensibly doing business in benign sectors, encounter risk (potentially as a result of state-control) that has ramifications on their market presence elsewhere (including for their broader list of partners, customers, bankers, etc.)