North Korea and Iran appear to have been regularly exchanging ballistic missile technology in violation of UN sanctions, according to a confidential UN report obtained by Reuters on Saturday.
The report said the illicit technology transfers had “trans--shipment through a neighboring third country.”
That country was China, several diplomats told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
The report will likely deepen suspicions about North Korean cooperation with Iran and heighten concerns about China’s commitment to enforcing UN sanctions against Tehran and Pyongyang because of their nuclear programs, envoys told Reuters.
The report was submitted on Friday to the UN Security Council by a UN Panel of Experts, a group that monitors compliance with UN sanctions imposed on Pyongyang after it conducted two nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009.
The UN sanctions included a ban on trade in nuclear and missile technology with North Korea, as well as an arms embargo. They also banned trade with a number of North Korean firms and called for asset freezes and travel bans on some North Korean individuals.
“Prohibited ballistic missile-related items are suspected to have been transferred between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea [North Korea] and the Islamic Republic of Iran on regular scheduled flights of Air Koryo and Iran Air,” the report said. “For the shipment of cargo, like arms and related materiel, whose illicit nature would become apparent on any cursory physical inspection, [North] Korea seems to prefer chartered cargo flights.”
Several UN Security Council diplomats said China was unhappy about the report and would likely not agree to release it to the public.
At the moment, only the 15 council members have official access to the document.
“The Chinese expert refused to sign the report, under pressure from Beijing, and this raises serious issues about a panel of experts that is supposed to be free from political interference,” said a senior UN diplomat, requesting anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the issue.
Further evidence of Iran’s cooperation with North Korea on missile technology came during a military parade in October last year, the report said, when North Korea displayed a new warhead for its Nodong missile.
The warhead had “a strong design similarity with the Iranian Shahab-3 triconic warhead.”
In its report, the panel said North Korea’s uranium enrichment problem, which Pyongyang says is for civilian purposes, was “primarily for military purposes.”
It added that North Korea “should be compelled to abandon its uranium enrichment program and that all aspects of the program should be placed under international monitoring.”
The report also said there were concerns about safety at North Korea’s Yongbyon nuclear complex. It said “safety issues should be discussed [as] an integral part of the denuclearization of [North Korea].”
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE