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Chinese Firms Illegally Selling Missile Parts to North Korea, Report Says

Chinese firms are providing North Korea with firing systems and other ballistic missile parts in contravention of U.N. Security Council rules, the London Telegraph reported on Friday, citing classified information from an unidentified regional spy service (see GSN, April 24).

Security Council resolution 1874 calls on all U.N. member nations to interdict and search suspected illicit North Korean shipments and to demolish any goods tied to the nation's missile and nuclear development activities. However, North Korean firms are still able to purchase prohibited products in China, according to the agency.

These North Korean firms "have been smuggling in or out controlled items by either setting up and operating a front company in China, or colluding with Chinese firms to forge documents and resorting to other masking techniques," according to an agency intelligence assessment.

Korea Mining Development Trading is among the firms singled out as violating the U.N. trade restrictions.

"The North Korean entities subject to U.N. sanctions are known to have been deeply involved in the North Korean procurement of Chinese ICBM transporter-erector-launcher vehicles," the agency report states. Last August, a shell firm for Korea Mining, Changgwang Trading, purchased four large transporter vehicles that were modified into long-range missile firing platforms. The missile vehicles were unveiled at a military parade in April (see GSN, April 19).

Slightly more than a year ago,  Korea Ryonbong General purchased from a Chinese firm two tons of vanadium, a material that is employed in missile production, according to the intelligence report.

China's Dalian port is a principal hub for exporting prohibited weapons components to North Korea, the agency said. "The U.N. North Korea sanctions committee has frequently asked China for clarification of North Korea's weapons transport through the port of Dalian, but China is said to have been shifting the responsibility to shipping companies of other nations or refusing to answer."

Payoffs of between $62,000 and $93,000 are provided to customs officers for every 40-foot shipping box containing prohibited missile parts shipped through the port. Pyongyang also hides its illegal purchases by "falsely describing the contents of the shipments, forging the country of origin as China and purchasing the materials in the name of Chinese firms," the agency said.

North Korean officials involved in the weapon deals often use Beijing International Airport as a meeting point for transferring large quantities of currency. These meetings take place with the "connivance of Chinese authorities and the customs office," according to the intelligence assessment (Julian Ryall, London Telegraph, June 8).

Meanwhile, a Ukrainian court in May ordered that two North Korean officials each be imprisoned for eight years after they attempted to acquire classified rocket technology from the Yuzhnoye Design Bureau in Dnipropetrovsk, the Yonhap News Agency reported, citing local informed insiders.

The Dnipropetrovsk branch oversaw production of the Soviet Union's R-36M ICBM, which has a flight distance of more than 6,800 miles.

Ukrainian Security Service officials arrested the two North Korean trade office staffers after they reportedly approached a scientist at Yuzhnoye. The researcher informed authorities that he had been approached and then assisted in entrapping the two North Koreans as they were taking pictures of secret rocket technology information.

The North Koreans were said to be focused on liquid fuel systems that could significantly extend a rocket's traveling distance. The officials have denied all guilt and intend to appeal the court's verdict, a source said.

Acquisition of the classified rocket systems would have helped the North's efforts to build a ballistic missile capable of striking the mainland United States, according to local analysts (Yonhap News Agency, June 9).

Separately, the South Korean Defense Ministry on Monday said any North Korean assault would lead Seoul to respond without pause with attacks on Pyongyang's "core command forces," Agence France-Presse reported.

Inter-Korean ties have been particularly strained following a number of highly detailed threats from Pyongyang. Several North Korean warplanes recently came very close to the nations' boundary line, a South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman said.

In response, Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin directed that a readiness exercise be conducted on Monday to ensure the armed forces could "immediately retaliate against sources of provocations," the official said.

"This is our warning aimed at discouraging the North from daring to provoke us," the spokesman said.

The unscheduled exercise included forward-deployed artillery forces, the air force, and the ballistic missile command, according to Yonhap (Agence France-Presse/Yahoo!News, June 11).

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