China on Tuesday prevented the release of an expert report to the U.N. Security Council asserting that North Korea has routinely exchanged ballistic missile equipment with Iran, Reuters reported (see GSN, May 17).
The classified report by an expert committee that monitors implementation of Security Council sanctions targeting North Korea's missile and nuclear development programs can only officially be viewed by the 15 members of the U.N. body.
The expert report said an unidentified third country bordering North Korea was acting as a midshipment point for North Korean-Iranian missile commerce. Multiple anonymous envoys said that country was China.
A Tuesday memo from France, which presently holds the rotating Security Council presidency, informed the other member states that an unidentified nation had used a procedural method to prevent the document's release "so as to have additional time." Several sources said the country was China.
"The Chinese don't have instructions from Beijing again. That's usually how it works when they want to block one of these reports," a Western envoy said.
Multiple Western envoys said they would like to see the Chinese government ultimately allow publication of the expert report.
The Chinese representative on the expert panel previously blocked the report's submission to the Security Council until Saturday, Western envoys said (Louis Charbonneau, Reuters I, May 17).
Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Hu Zhengyue on Wednesday firmly dismissed claims that his nation was the hub for illegal missile technology trade between Pyongyang and Tehran, Reuters reported.
"I completely deny such a view," Hu said to journalists.
Should the expert panel's assertions be correct, it would add weight to Western worries that Beijing has not assigned adequate resources to spotting and blocking North Korean proliferation activities.
"On the issue of denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula, the Chinese position is crystal clear. We have nothing to hide," Hu said (Sui-Lee Wee, Reuters II, May 18).
Western diplomats at a Tuesday Security Council discussion of the expert report said they worried about gaps in the U.N. sanctions regime against North Korea, Agence France-Presse reported.
Portuguese envoy Jose Filipe Moraes Cabral, who leads the North Korean sanctions body, said the report's claims were "serious."
"Shipping and transportation loopholes" must be cut off, one British diplomat said at the meeting. A German official also said his government was "concerned" about the spread of missile and nuclear technology.
Security Council states from Europe have said they would back adding more North Korean organizations and individuals to the sanctions list (Agence France-Presse/Google News, May 17).