The US said on Thursday it believed China’s assurances that it was abiding by sanctions on North Korea after charges that Beijing supplied technology for a missile launcher.
IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly said that UN officials were investigating allegations that China violated sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council after North Korea unveiled the 16-wheel launcher at a military parade.
“China has provided repeated assurances that it’s complying fully with both Resolution 1718, as well as 1874. We’re not presently aware of any UN probe into this matter,” US State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters.
“I think we take them at their word,” Toner said, adding that he was not aware of specific conversations between the US and China about the launcher.
North Korea showed off the launcher, carrying an apparently new medium-range missile, as part of national celebrations on Sunday for the centennial of the birth of North Korean founder Kim Il-sung.
Quoting an unidentified official, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly said China could be in breach of the two resolutions approved after North Korea’s 2006 and 2009 nuclear tests if it had passed along the vehicle since then.
US Representative Mike Turner, who heads a panel of the House Armed Services Committee, asked US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper to investigate whether China supplied the launcher’s technology.
In a letter, Turner quoted military specialist Richard Fisher as telling him that the launcher was “very likely based on a Chinese design” and that the technology transfer would have required a green light from Beijing.
“I am sure you agree that the United States cannot permit a state such as the People’s Republic of China to support — either intentionally or by a convenient lack of attention — the ambitions of a state like North Korea to threaten the security of the American people,” Turner wrote. “Indeed, the possibility of such cooperation undermines the administration’s entire policy of investing China with the responsibility of getting tough on North Korea.”
US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, questioned by Turner on Thursday on Capitol Hill about the possibility of technology transfers, said: “I’m sure there’s been some help coming from China.”
However, he did not elaborate on whether that “help” constituted a violation of sanctions, saying: “I don’t know the exact extent of that.”
China, which holds a veto on the UN Security Council, is the main supporter of North Korea, although it voiced misgivings over Pyongyang’s defiant rocket launch last week.
North Korea described the launch as an unsuccessful bid to put a satellite into orbit, but the US said it was a disguised missile test.
Separately, Japan’s Yomiuri Shimbun reported on Wednesday that China has stopped sending back fleeing North Koreans in retaliation for its ally’s failure to consult Beijing over its rocket launch.
China’s repatriations have triggered wide criticism overseas, with human rights groups saying that North Koreans face imprisonment, forced abortions and even sometimes execution if returned home.
“We obviously hope that the media reports are true,” Toner said.
However, the spokesman said the UScould not confirm a change in China’s policy.
“We consistently urge China to adhere to its international obligations as part of the UN Convention on Refugees,” he said.