Intercontinental ballistic missiles at a military parade celebrating the 70th founding anniversary of the Korean People's Army in Pyongyang. Photo: KCNA via Reuters

North Korean military parades, like the one in Pyongyang last week, aren’t necessarily a reliable window on the country’s advanced weapons programs, especially when it comes to exposing vulnerabilities in its intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) force, an expert says in an article on 38 North.

Analyst Joseph R. Bermudez Jr. noted in a post on the website dedicated to North Korean affairs that where Pyongyang’s concerned, “what is often seen is intended to mislead or misdirect the world as to its true capabilities and intentions.”

Bermudez was responding on a report by CNBC last week that footage of the recent parade indicates “a shortage of big vehicles used for carrying and helping to launch ICBMs by North Korea.”

“North Korea has long implemented camouflage, concealment and deception (known as CCD) procedures for all major military operations and parades,” Bermudez wrote.

“It is not the size of the ballistic missile launcher—ICBM or otherwise—that is the real issue here. It is the increasing number of launchers and their ability to move around the country, combined with the actual number of ICBMs produced, that presents both the challenge and the threat,” Bermudez said in his post.

What’s seen at a North Korean military parade is only some of what they have, Bermudez says.

“(There) is a host of ballistic missile related equipment that has never been displayed at parades that is just as critical to assessing North Korean ballistic missile capabilities as are the launchers themselves,” Bermudez wrote. “Without understanding and considering these factors, making an assessment of any ‘key vulnerability’ in North Korea’s Strategic Force’s (the organization that operates the nation’s ballistic missiles) capabilities is extremely challenging at best.”

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