NK missile parts seized in Busan en route to Syria
By Kim Young-jin
North Korea tried to send missile components to Syria on a Chinese ship but the shipment was confiscated in the South Korean port of Busan earlier this year, according to reports Wednesday.
The move would not only violate U.N. sanctions but also underscore concerns over the North’s proliferation activities and Beijing’s refusal to clamp down on its communist ally.
South Korean authorities intercepted the ship in Busan and seized hundreds of graphite cylinders in May, reports citing U.N. diplomats said. The reports couldn’t be independently confirmed.
The cylinders, declared as lead pipes, are suitable for use in missile programs.
The case was included in a report submitted this month to a U.N. special committee that oversees implementation of sanctions on North Korea.
Diplomats said the cylinders were headed to a Syrian firm called Electric Parts from a North Korean trading firm. They can be made into rocket nozzles and other components, they said. The vessel was registered in Shanghai.
Seoul officials did not provide details on the case, saying it was being investigated by the U.N. special committee. South Korea reportedly informed the committee about the incident Oct. 24.
The findings “will be published in a report in December,” one official said on condition of anonymity. “Until then, we can’t confirm this case.
“This is a very sensitive issue, as it involves multiple countries.”
The act would fly in the face of sanctions that seek to halt Pyongyang’s exports of nuclear and missile technology. The measures were imposed for the North’s testing of nuclear weapons technology in 2006.
The news could irk Beijing which has tried to convince regional players to restart denuclearization talks with the Kim Jong-un regime but also come under question for an alleged lack of commitment to the sanctions.
Security experts say Pyongyang has stepped up its missile development activity with Syria, which now includes sending technicians to the Middle Eastern country to upgrade Scud D surface-to-surface missiles, according to IHS Jane’s.
The report was prepared by experts from the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) as well as from Korea and Japan and submitted to the special committee for review.
The North has kept up its military buildup under new leader Kim Jong-un. It earned a UNSC condemnation with its failed long-range rocket launch in April, which was viewed as missile test. Also that month, it rolled out missile transport vehicles suspected of having been imported from China during a massive military parade.
China has been suspected of taking the bite out of the North’s international punishments by supplying the country with massive amounts of aid and looking the other way on proliferation activities.