Half a dozen ominous new North Korean missiles showcased at a lavish military parade were clumsy fakes, according to analysts.
Their conclusions cast more doubt on the country's claims of military prowess after its recent rocket launch failure.
The weapons displayed on April 15 appear to be a mish-mash of liquid-fuel and solid-fuel components that could never fly together, the experts said.
Undulating casings on the missiles suggest the metal is too thin to withstand flight.
Each missile was slightly different from the others, even though all were supposedly the same make, and they did not fit the launchers they were carried on.
Analysts detailed the discrepancies in a paper posted on the website Armscontrolwonk.com, adding there is no doubt the missiles were mock-ups.
“There is no doubt that these missiles were mock-ups,” Markus Schiller and Robert Schmucker, of Germany’s Schmucker Technologie, wrote in a paper posted on Armscontrolwonk.com.
“It remains unknown if they were designed this way to confuse foreign analysts, or if the designers simply did some sloppy work.”
The missiles, called KN-08s, were loaded on to the largest mobile launch vehicles North Korea has ever unveiled. Pyongyang gave them special prominence by presenting them at the end of the lavish parade, which capped weeks of celebrations marking the 100th anniversary of the country’s founding father, Kim Il Sung.
The unveiling created an international stir. The missiles appeared to be new, and designed for long-range attacks.
Along with developing nuclear weapons, North Korea has long been suspected of trying to field an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of reaching the United States. Washington contends that North Korea’s failed April 13 rocket launch was an attempt to test missile technology rather than the scientific mission Pyongyang claims.
But after poring over close-up photos of the missiles, Mr Schiller and Mr Schmucker, whose company has advised Nato on missile issues, argue the mock-ups indicate North Korea is a long way from having a credible ICBM.
“There is still no evidence that North Korea actually has a functional ICBM,” they concluded, adding that the display was a “dog and pony show” and suggesting North Korea may not be making serious progress toward its nuclear-tipped ICBM dreams.
North Korea has a particularly bad track record with ICBM-style rockets. Its four launches since 1998 – three of which it claimed carried satellites – all ended in failure.
North Korea also frequently overstates its military capabilities. On Wednesday, one of its senior military leaders, Vice Marshal Ri Yong Ho, claimed his country was armed with powerful modern weapons capable of defeating the United States “at a single blow”.
North Korea made another unusual claim on Monday, promising “special actions” that would reduce South Korea’s government to ashes within minutes.