N.Korea's Arms Export Routes Getting Harder to Track

      June 29, 2009 11:53

      North Korea has sought various legal and illegal ways to dodge the tightening net of the U.S.-led Proliferation Security Initiative for the past few years, a government source said Sunday.

      South Korean and U.S. intelligence agencies believe the North exported some US$800 million worth of weapons including missiles, submarines, multi launch rockets and field artillery to Iran, Syria and Burma between 2000 and last year. Until the 1990s, such exports were relatively easy for the West to track since the North exported finished goods directly to recipients with its own cargo vessels. But tighter controls by the international community of weapons of mass destruction and restraints on the North's arms industry meant Pyongyang had to look for more devious ways.

      For instance, the North took a roundabout land route via China and Russia, which is harder to trace, or used transport planes at night. It also exported weapons by building assembly factories in importing countries. To circumvent an entry ban on its ships in ports, North Korean chartered ships under the names of foreigners, falsified the country of origin, or did business through a third country. That is mostly how it was able to export to Iran, Syria, Burma and Laos.

      Due to these opaque methods, the U.S. is now keeping an eye on a number of ships and airplanes in addition to the North Korean cargo ship Kangnam it is tracking. As the North becomes more sophisticated in its methods, the international community too must become smarter in tracing and controlling the North's movements, a government official said.

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