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China's military vehicle export to North Korea cannot be ignored
Publication Date : 15-06-2012
The international community must not ignore the current situation in which UN sanctions against North Korea are virtually toothless.
It has recently been learned that China exported specialised vehicles that can be converted to transport and launch ballistic missiles to North Korea in August last year.
It is strongly suspected that the export of such vehicles violated UN Security Council resolutions that prohibit, among other actions, exports of goods contributing to North Korea's programmes to develop weapons of mass destruction.
In cooperation with countries including the United States, a permanent member of the UN Security Council, Japan should ask China exactly how and why those vehicles were exported to North Korea and again strongly call for strict enforcement of the sanctions against that country.
The export of the vehicles to North Korea was discovered when the Japan Coast Guard, in an action based on the Security Council resolutions, inspected a Cambodian-registered vessel in Osaka Port in October. According to sources, a record of the vehicles having been exported from China to the port of Nampo in North Korea was found.
North Korea itself presented smoking-gun evidence by unveiling large special-purpose vehicles carrying "new ballistic missiles" during a military parade in April. This is because the vehicles closely resemble those manufactured by a Chinese defence contractor.
'Timbre' excuse just a fig leaf
The Japanese government has avoided explaining the matter, but it made inquiries to China via the US government, according to the sources. Beijing reportedly said the vehicles were "for carrying timbre" and therefore the export does not violate the Security Council resolutions.
Even if the export was merely of truck chassis for civilian use, the vehicles were originally developed for military use. It must have been easy for North Korea to convert them into missile transporters.
North Korea probably wanted to flaunt the extended range of its missiles and improvements in its capability to fire missiles from mobile launch vehicles. We must not lower our guard against Pyongyang's development of ballistic missiles, which is being promoted in parallel with a nuclear weapons development programme.
If North Korea conducts its third nuclear test, its full development of nuclear warheads will only be a matter of time. Japan, already within reach of the Rodong medium-range missile, will come under a dramatically increased threat. Stability in the East Asian region will be seriously undermined.
International unity needed
To stop North Korea's nuclear and missile development, the international community must make efforts to thoroughly implement sanctions against Pyongyang based on the Security Council resolutions.
Cooperation from China, North Korea's neighbour and its biggest trading partner, is indispensable to this end, but a problem is that there seems to be no end to suspicious cases in which Pyongyang smuggles in goods via China. A report by an expert panel that advises the Security Council's sanctions committee points this out.
China denies the allegation and has claimed that it strictly implements Security Council resolutions. This time again, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson declared that China "doesn't export goods banned by the resolutions or Chinese law".
If that is so, China should give a full account of the export of the vehicles to North Korea.