Japan has evidence that a Chinese firm exported to North Korea vehicles capable of transporting and launching missiles, in possible violation of UN sanctions, Japanese media reported yesterday.
China called the reports inaccurate and denied violating any UN restriction.
According to the Japanese reports, four of the vehicles were shipped from Shanghai to North Korea in August last year aboard the Harmony Wish, a Cambodian-flagged cargo vessel.
Japanese authorities tracked the ship by satellite and searched it after it had delivered its cargo, when it transited through Japan the following month, the reports said.
Such vehicles — called TELs, for transporter, erector, launcher — became the focus of international attention when North Korea displayed what looked like several of them during a military parade in its capital, Pyongyang, in April.
They are a concern because they could give the North the ability to transport long-range missiles around its territory, making them harder to locate and destroy.
Japan’s top government spokesman declined to confirm the reports yesterday, but he said that if necessary, Japan would work with the international community to determine if UN regulations were violated.
In Beijing, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Liu Weimin (劉為民) said China had not violated any restrictions.
“Chinese companies did not violate UN and Chinese laws,” he said, calling the reports “inaccurate.”
He did not specifically confirm or deny the vehicles were sold, but said China is opposed to proliferation and is “complying with UN laws and regulations.”
Although no suspicious vehicles were aboard the ship when it was searched in Japan, authorities found documents detailing the cargo it had unloaded in North Korea, and that included the vehicles, according to the Asahi Shimbun, a major Japanese daily. It cited multiple, but unnamed government sources.
The Asahi said the evidence was shared with South Korea and the US, but claimed that Washington requested it not be made public.
It identified the Chinese exporter as Wuhan Sanjiang Import Export Co, a subsidiary of state-owned China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp, and the North Korean importer as Rimmok General Trading, which it said was likely a front company.