Report Reveals N.Korea's Flourishing Arms Trade

North Korea has exported around US$100 million worth of conventional weapons and nuclear weapons technology a year despite UN sanctions, a panel of experts monitoring the implementations of UN Security Council resolutions revealed Wednesday. Their report said that North Korea has been exporting nuclear weapons and missile technology, conventional weapons, parts and materials to Burma, Iran and Syria.

The North Korea dodged the sanctions in ways reminiscent of spy films, switching boats and airplanes, establishing paper companies and forging cargo documents to transport its deadly freight. The 75-page UN report presents evidence directly or indirectly linking North Korea to the arms exports.

In February this year, South African authorities in Durban discovered T54 and T55 tank components in a cargo container labeled "bulldozer spare parts" that was headed for the Congo. An investigation revealed that the tank parts were shipped from North Korea and transferred at Dalian port in China to a French cargo ship chartered to the U.K. It was then packed together with containers full of grain bags and transferred to Port Klang in Malaysia, where it was loaded on a Liberian ship.

Behind the ruse was a North Korean trading company which is on the list of businesses subject to UN sanctions. The tank parts were transferred in different cargo containers and were assembled at the port of destination. This is known as the "knock-down kit" method.

According to UN statistics on the trade of goods, North Korea has exported weapons and weapons-related materials over the last 30 years, but official statistics show that it exported only $22.9 million worth of weapons between 2000 and 2009. But the UN report collates data compiled by various governments and experts and estimates that North Korea exports around $100 million worth of weapons annually.

Data compiled by the International Atomic Energy Agency and various governments, as well as media reports show North Korea involved in nuclear-related activities in Burma, Iran and Syria, according to the report. The panel of experts said they looked at a government report showing evidence that North Korea supported the design and construction of a nuclear reactor in Syria's Deir al Zur region. In his memoir "Decision Points," former U.S. President George W. Bush wrote that in 2007, U.S. intelligence officials reached the conclusion that Syria was building a nuclear plant with the help of North Korea.

The panel of experts also mentioned suspicious activities by North Korea's Namchongang Trading, including the suspected sale of gyroscopes that could be used to manufacture missile guidance systems to Burma.

In order to hide records of its financial transactions, the report said North Korea used either foreign companies, paper companies or cash couriers and even turned to unofficial methods of transferring money and even bartering to avoid detection. It criticized the UNSC for limiting sanctions to only eight North Korean entities and five individuals. Instead of the [North] Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation, which is the target of the UN sanctions, Green Pine Associated Corporation handles about half of North Korea's arms shipments, it added.

The report was made in May but was buried for six months because of China's opposition to revealing it at a time when North Korea was being cornered for attacking the South Korean Navy corvette Cheonan.

englishnews@chosun.com / Nov. 12, 2010 13:06 KST