Japanese news organizations reported on Wednesday that the government there has proof that mobile missile firing systems displayed by North Korea in April originated in China, the Associated Press reported (see GSN, June 11).
Beijing quickly dismissed any wrongdoing.
The North in April showed off a road-mobile launch platform for long-range missiles during a parade in Pyongyang. Observers at the time said the vehicles appeared similar to a transporter-erector-launcher developed by the government-run China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp. The worry is that a vehicle of this type would increase the difficulty for the United States and allies of finding and eliminating North Korea's missiles.
Japanese news accounts stated that four transporters were moved in August 2011 from Shanghai to North Korea on the Harmony Wish, a freighter that sails under the Cambodian flag. Tokyo monitored the vessel's movement via orbiting systems and inspected the vessel when it stopped in Japan in September of last year, according to the reports.
The examination did not turn up any potential missile carriers, but papers indicated that the transporter-erector-launchers had been among the items shipped to North Korea, according to the Asahi Shimbun.
Tokyo updated South Korea and the United States on its findings, the newspaper reported.
The vehicles are believed to have been delivered by Wuhan Sanjiang Import Export, a branch of China Aerospace Science and Industry, to the North's Rimmok General Trading.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin rejected any claim that his nation had breached international rules against weapons sales to North Korea.
"Chinese companies did not violate U.N. and Chinese laws," he said.
Liu described the Japanese news accounts as "inaccurate" but offered no firm statement on whether Beijing had or had not exported the systems. He added that China is "complying with U.N. laws and regulations."
Issue specialists said the new information does not offer conclusive proof that China had intentionally broken any laws, as there is still room to argue that officials there did not know the intended end uses of the vehicles.
The systems can be used for nonmilitary purposes. Beijing says they were intended as lumber movers, according to Asahi (Eric Talmadge, Associated Press/USA Today, June 13).
While he would not specifically address the "matter of intelligence," Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said "if Japan obtains information about any violation of the [U.N. Security Council] resolution, the government will address the matter in cooperation with concerned nations," Agence France-Presse reported.
Seoul, Tokyo and Washington concurred that the delivery would constitute a breach of the prohibition on arms sales to North Korea under Security Council Resolution 1874, according to the Asahi report.
The newspaper said the 16-wheel transporter was apparently produced in China as a carrier for the Dongfeng 31 ICBM (Agence France-Presse/Mysinchew.com, June 13).