China could have provided North Korea with the submarine-launched ballistic missile that the regime in Pyongyang successfully test-fired last week, a U.S. expert claimed Thursday.
Bruce Bechtol, a North Korea expert at Angelo State University in Texas, made the remark during an interview with the John Batchelor Show radio news program, calling the North's SLBM, known as KN-11, a "carbon copy" of China's JL-1 submarine missile.
"The missile that the North Koreans launched looks like it's a two-stage missile just like the JL-1. It looks like it's a solid-fuel missile just like the JL-1," Bechtol said, adding that the North Korean missile is believed to be "a JL-1 or a very, very close variant."
"Just looking at the JL-1 and the North Korean SLBM, they're looking exactly the same," he said.
Bechtol said that China has a record of providing the North with military hardware, saying the North acquired transporter-erector-launchers (TEL), a vehicle used in carrying and launching missiles, from China in recent years.
The professor also said that he has some joint research with space program expert Tal Inbar of Israel's Fisher Institute and the two shared the view that the North's SLBM could have come from China.
"He and I agree that there is really not any other missile that looks similar at all to this North Korean missile whereas the JL-1 looks like a carbon copy of it," he said.
The North successfully conducted the latest SLBM test last week, sending the missile, designated KN-11, some 500 kilometers over the East Sea, the greatest distance the communist nation has achieved since it began SLBM tests last year.
Moreover, the missile was launched at a high angle, meaning the missile could have flown farther.
State Department spokesman John Kirby declined comment on Bechtol's claims.
"I'm not able to speak to intelligence matters here from the podium," Kirby said at a regular press briefing. (Yonhap)