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North Korea ‘photoshopped’ latest rocket test photo: report

Experts claim one of the photos showing Pyongyang's latest rocket test on Sunday seems manipulated. (KCNA-Yonhap)
Experts claim one of the photos showing Pyongyang's latest rocket test on Sunday seems manipulated. (KCNA-Yonhap)

North Korea could have manipulated images of its latest rocket launches, a German rocket expert recently told US broadcaster Voice of America.

Markus Schiller, who specializes in mechanical and aerospace engineering, suspected Pyongyang edited some of the launch pictures made public.

“If you measure the dimensions of the missile which just seems to have left the launch tube, the missile is too large, diameter is too big and the length is too long to fit into that launch tube,” he said.

North Korea test-fired what it claimed to be two super-large rockets on Sunday, and the next day released a set of photographs, hailing a “successful” test.

Schiller, however, said the flame and lighting surrounding one of the rockets captured in one of the photographs look wrong.

“Some smoke in the background, but it is only in the background. The launcher is not enveloped in smoke and you can clearly see the very bright burning back of the missile, but it doesn’t affect the rest of the photos. It just doesn’t look natural,” the expert said.

Another North Korean expert said it was too early to rule that the photo had been doctored, but it invited suspicions because Pyongyang was unusually unavailable this time to release many launch pictures.

“They’re being really weird about this. They’re not showing us nearly as many pictures of this system as they are showing us of the wheeled one and I don‘t know why that is,” said Jeffrey Lewis of the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in the US, referring to Pyongyang’s earlier launches.

Meanwhile, other missile experts said it was more suspicious that North Korea underwent a series of weapons tests involving super-large rockets, Washington-style ballistic missile ATACMS and Moscow’s ballistic missile Iskander.

“North Korea doesn’t have a lot of industry … it makes no sense for them to be producing three different kinds of missiles that all do basically the same thing. Huge inefficiency,” said Ian Williams, deputy director of the Missile Defense Project at CSIS.

Bruce W. Bennett, a senior defense researcher at the Rand Corp., said the unprecedented flurry of launches was aimed to capture publicity amid denuclearization negotiations at an impasse since bilateral talks between the US and North Korea broke down in October last year.

By Choi Si-young (siyoungchio@heraldcorp.com)
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