After some detective work by German aerospace experts, it has been determined that the photo of Kim Jong-un watching a missile launched from an underwater submarine had likely been “strongly modified.”
On May 9, North Korean officials said an underwater test-fire was successful and published the photo of Kim Jong-un looking on at the missile.
Experts said that the reflection of the exhaust in the water did not match up with the position of the missile.
There were also photos that were broadcast on state television that showed one missile with white smoke trailing it, but another without the smoke. Markus Schiller and Robert Schmucker, aerospace engineers at Schmucker Technologie, said the photos were of two different types of missiles that had different propulsion systems.
If this was true, it would have been a sign of progress for Kim Jong-un and North Korea, which was said to be working on building missile-equipped submarines.
The North’s National Defence Commission, the primary ruling body of North Korea headed by Kim Jong-un, said that the missile launch from submarines was “yet a higher level of accomplishment in the development of strategic attack means.”
Experts believe that Kim Jong-un and North Korea are years away from developing the types of missiles they have already claimed to launch.
Schiller and Schmucker said that North Korea’s history of publishing fabricated photos could actually be an indicator of just how far off their goal they really are.
“Considering the track record of North Korean deceptions, it seems sensible to assume that any North Korean SLBM [submarine-launched ballistic missile] capability is still a very long time in the future, if it will ever surface.”
Experts agree that the missile was probably launched from a specially designed barge that was submerged, and not from a submarine like previously claimed.
Meanwhile, South Korea is standing by the belief that the photos are legitimate.
“We haven’t changed our stance that the rocket was fired from a submarine and flew about 150 meters out of the water,” a South Korean military official told Reuters.
This certainly would not be the first time Kim Jong-un has been in a picture that North Korea poorly photoshopped.
Beyond photographs, North Korea has come up with other forms of fake evidence to back their claims of making advances in missile technology, Schiller and Schmucker said. They cited poorly designed models of missiles that were showcased at military parades in 2012 and 2013 as an example.
[Image EPA via BBC News]