Exports of North Korean missiles and other weapons rose in value to about US$100 million last year mainly due to tensions in the Middle East, a South Korean newspaper reported yesterday.
The hardline communist country saw a sharp drop in weapons exports in 2007 because of international sanctions imposed after it tested missiles and an atom bomb in 2006.
Last year the value of its overseas arms sales rose to about US$100 million or more than 10 percent of total exports, the Dong-a Ilbo newspaper said.
It quoted an unidentified Seoul government official as saying that the progress in six-party nuclear disarmament talks last year helped North Korea sell more weapons.
The paper said that purchasers felt less political burden in buying such weapons because the six-party talks had made some headway.
The Middle East, Africa, Southeast Asia and Latin America were said to be export destinations.
“Middle East countries are known to have purchased a large amount of weapons from North Korea due to a military confrontation with Israel,” the official was quoted as saying.
North Korea has allegedly supplied missiles to Syria, and Washington said Iranian officials were present at the North’s missile test-launches in 2006.
The South’s unification ministry and defense ministry said they could not confirm the newspaper report.
The US has accused North Korea of being a leading global proliferator of weapons. But the cash-strapped country has refused to stop missile exports, a major source of hard currency earnings.