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Exclusive Interview: Analysts Say NK Submarine Missile Launch Failed


Footage from North Korean TV shows the recent SLBM test that video analysis suggests was a dud.

Footage from North Korean TV shows the recent SLBM test that video analysis suggests was a dud.

A video analysis to be posted Tuesday on armscontrolwonk.com will demonstrate that a recent missile test (believed to have been conducted Dec. 21) shown on North Korean television on January 8 was actually an explosive dud, not the great success claimed by Pyongyang and witnessed by leader Kim Jong Un. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman exclusively spoke with the two California-based researchers who analyzed the video and reached the conclusion it was faked.

Hanham: “My name is Melissa Hanham. I'm a senior researcher associate at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies in Monterey, California.”

Dill: “I'm Catherine Dill. I'm a research associate also at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies in Monterey, California.”

Watch video of the North Korea SLBM test:

Herman: “You both have been analyzing a recent missile test that the North Koreans conducted. Can you tell us what the North Koreans claimed to have done and what you believe actually happened?”

Hanham: “This is Melissa. So on Friday (Jan. 8) KCTV, which is North Korean state media, published video clips of a purported SLBM launch – that's a submarine launched ballistic missile. The clips were short and carefully edited together to make it look like it was a successful test. You can see Kim Jong Un in the frame viewing the test and smiling. However, Catherine took apart the video clip by clip and analyzed pretty much every frame of the video. She was able to determine, first of all, that much of the footage was doctored and, second of all, that that was done to cover up the fact that the missile launch failed and the rocket itself burst into flames and fell apart.”

Footage from North Korean TV shows Kim Jong Un watching the recent SLBM test that video analysis suggests was a dud.

Footage from North Korean TV shows Kim Jong Un watching the recent SLBM test that video analysis suggests was a dud.

Herman: “Obviously they did not show that part on North Korean television. How were you able to figure out that the thing was a fiery dud?”

Dill: “This is Catherine. They actually showed two frames of it. But because the video was so fast, hard to see, at a normal speed. But when we took it frame by frame and slowed it down, the debris field was quite obvious.”

Hanham: “This is Melissa again. So what you'll see in the video that we'll post tomorrow (Tuesday) is a geo-location. So our colleague, Dave Schmerler, did a geo-location of where the test was conducted. We'll show the original clip. We'll show Catherine's analysis showing all four (video) feeds side by side. We'll do a kind of zoom-in showing the ejecta flying off the sides of the rocket and the two frames that Catherine just mentioned of the rocket starting to burn up. We'll also show that the Scud video was used to show the end of the launch that was done in June, 2014. They just recycled that footage there. And then Jeffrey Lewis found an R-27 launch from the Soviet Union and once you show it side by side with the North Korean SLBM test it becomes really obvious that the rocket is behaving unusually and soon after it ejects it starts to fail."

Herman: “This sounds like it was a fairly crude effort, How would you rate their attempt to manipulate what they released publicly on this?”

Dill: “This is Catherine. It seems like a rather rudimentary effort. First of all, the way that the video plays it looks like there are three separate launches when in fact it's the exact same launch. There are three different videos of it. So there must of been, perhaps, three cameras. But two of them are from separate angles. And then, actually, two of the videos are the exact same sound. Post-editing the image was reversed. So it looks like a separate event. But when you reverse it back it's in fact the same. That's a fairly easy thing to do in a standard video editor.

Herman: “And you're planning to post all this online on Tuesday U.S. time. Where will people be able to see it?”

Hanham: "It'll be on armscontrolwonk.com -- all one word."

Listen to the interview:

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