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View more articles by Chad O'Carroll
Chad O'Carroll has written on North Korea since 2010 and writes between London and Seoul.
SEOUL – “Nuclear backpacks” carried by North Korean soldiers at Saturday’s “Victory Day” parade are unlikely meant to represent miniaturized nuclear weapons and are probably filled with “paper or rags,” an expert familiar with the Korean People’s Army has told NK News.
While South Korean media were quick to interpret the backpacks, pictured above, as representations of miniaturized nuclear weapons, U.S. based North Korean military expert Joeseph Bermudez Jr. rejects this possibility.
“The backpacks are far too small for atomic demolition munitions (ADMs),” Bermudez said, referring to a family of man-portable weapons developed by the U.S. in the 1960s, but never used.
On Monday a spokesperson for the South Korean Ministry of National Defense, Kim Min Seok, told journalists, “Nuclear backpacks are an extremely small type of nuclear weapon…Experts do not believe that North Korea has reached the ability to manufacture these backpacks.”
But instead of representing weapons, other explanations have emerged – some quasi-official, others third-party speculation.
The North Korean interlocutor of a source who attended Saturday’s parade said that the chest packs actually contain defensive suits, designed to help clean up contaminated areas.
Hazardous material suits are impermeable whole-body garments, normally worn as protection during times of radioactive, chemical or biological contamination.
However, Bermudez cautions that the protective suite explanation is also improbable, pointing out the chest packs “could barely contain a military-grade protective suit or a mask with extra filters.”
Another theory among commentators at popular arms control website Arms Control Wonk says that the chest packs might be used for carrying portable geiger counters, devices that measure radiation.
“The chestpacks look like repackaged DP-5B geiger counters. The probe tube is visible on the left side of the pack,” one commentator said about a post on the packs.
“They are big enough to carry a geiger counter, but to say a DP-5B is pure speculation,” Bermudez notes.
“In reality, it is likely that they are simply stuffed with paper or rags.”
“What readers need to understand is that the North Koreans know that we look at every little detail and try to gain intelligence from it. So at times they do things to “mess with our heads,” Bermudez added.
Although North Korea does possess a wide variety of military equipment, it has been suspected of parading false equipment in the past.
Observers are yet to confirm if the KN-08 missile – first showcased at an April 2012 parade – is fake or real.
Picture: NK News