NKorea exporting missiles to Mideast and Asia

AP News
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Posted: May 16, 2011 7:03 PM
NKorea exporting missiles to Mideast and Asia

North Korea remains "actively engaged" in exporting ballistic missiles, components and technology to numerous customers in the Middle East and South Asia in violation of United Nations sanctions, a U.N. panel said in a new report.

The seven-member panel said in a report to the U.N. Security Council obtained Monday by The Associated Press that North Korea has also completed _ or is about to complete _ construction of a second launch site for long-range rockets.

The launch site on the country's west coast is close to Tongchangdong and could be used for ballistic missiles in violation of U.N. sanctions, the report said. It said the installations appear "bigger and more sophisticated" than the original site on the east coast used for the 1998, 2006 and 2009 Taepodong missile launches.

North Korea embarked on the development of ballistic missiles in the 1970s and in the 1990s it test-fired a Nodong missile with a 1,300-kilometer (810-mile) range.

"In an effort to get hard currency and advance its own programs, the country has been actively engaged in the export of complete (missile) systems, components and technology to numerous customers in the Middle East and South Asia," the panel said.

The panel, which monitors implementation of sanctions, said prohibited ballistic missile-related items are suspected to have been transferred between North Korea and Iran on regularly scheduled flights of Air Koryo and Iran Air, with trans-shipment through a third country that diplomats identified as China.

During a military parade last Oct. 10, it said, North Korea displayed its new Musudan intermediate-range missile and a new warhead for its Nodong missile "which presented a strong design similarity with the Iranian Shahab-3 triconic warhead."

The Security Council imposed sanctions against North Korea after its first nuclear test in 2006 and stepped up sanctions after its second test in 2009 to try to derail the country's rogue nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs. The second round strengthened an arms embargo, authorized ship searches on the high seas for suspected banned items, and ordered an asset freeze and travel ban on companies and individuals involved in the country's nuclear and weapons programs.

The panel's 81-page report was sent to the 15 Security Council members for their approval by Tuesday morning. If all countries agree, it will be released. The panel's first report, in May 2010, was held up by China and finally released in November after Beijing dropped its objections.

During the past year, the panel said North Korea announced escalations in its nuclear program: weaponization of separated plutonium, revelation of a uranium enrichment program, construction of a light water reactor, and announcement of a program to develop nuclear fusion technology to obtain "safe and environment-friendly new energy."

"The country has also continued to defy the bans on imports and exports of nuclear-related items, of conventional arms and of luxury goods," the report said.

Although U.N. sanctions haven't stopped the North's nuclear programs and arms trading, the panel said, "they have made it more difficult and expensive for the country to pursue these."

But North Korea has exploited loopholes and other vulnerabilities in shipping and transportation practices, the panel said. The country has become increasingly sophisticated in establishing shell and front companies and offshore financial agents, and in using multiple affiliates and aliases to mask individuals and companies subject to sanctions, it said.

As one example, the panel said the Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation, which is subject to an asset freeze, has four aliases listed by the U.N. committee monitoring sanctions against North Korea _ and 12 aliases that are not listed.

In a recent sign of North Korea's apparent ongoing pursuit of nuclear weapons, the panel said it was informed by an unidentified country that on March 9 a private company received an unsolicited proposal from North Korea's Chamber of Commerce to establish a joint venture to develop a signficant capability in the North to produce graphite-related products, including ultrapure graphite concentrate which could be used in nuclear programs. It said the unidentified company turned down the proposal.

The panel said the size and sophistication of the 2,000 centrifuges used in North Korea's previously secret uranium enrichment program, which were shown to American scientist Siegfried Hecker last November, "pose serious challenges to efforts to halt proliferation" in the country.

It said Hecker and many other experts strongly believe that North Korea has pursued uranium enrichment clandestinely for a long time, and that "it is highly likely" that there are one or more clandestine facilities elsewhere in the North capable of producing high-enriched or low-enriched uranium.

The panel said North Korea should be "compelled" to abandon its uranium enrichment program, saying it believes the government's aim in starting it was primarily for military purposes. North Korea should also abandon construction of a new light water reactor, which it is using as justification for the uranium enrichment program, the panel said.