N. Korea used China as conduit for arms export – UN report

North Korean soldiers salute during a military parade to mark 100 years since the birth of the country's founder Kim Il-Sung in Pyongyang on April 15, 2012. (AFP Photo / Pedro Ugarte)
There is evidence North Korea exported ballistic missile-related items through China to the Middle East in breach of its sanctions, says a UN report. The document is the result of an ongoing investigation into possible N. Korean arms deals with Syria.

The report was published by a team of independent investigators and presented to the United Nations on Friday after a month’s delay due to Chinese objections.

The document labels China as a middleman for the export of illicit North Korean arms-related breaches and cites evidence of shipments passing through Chinese territory.

The panel cites the case of a shipment of missile-related articles that was seized in October 2007 which originated from North Korea. It was reportedly trans-shipped in Dalian, China and was headed for Lattakia in Syria.

The team of investigators is currently looking at possible arms deals between the Asian nation, Myanmar and Syria. It underlined the fact that although North Korea continues to violate UN sanctions, there were no new reports of “violations involving transfer of nuclear, other (weapons of mass-destruction)-related or ballistic missile items."

A North Korean missile Taepodong class is displayed during a military parade on April 15, 2012. (AFP Photo / Pedro Ugarte)
A North Korean missile Taepodong class is displayed during a military parade on April 15, 2012. (AFP Photo / Pedro Ugarte)


Fake missiles and bootleg Mercedes

The document also alludes to new KN-08 missiles that were put on display during a military parade in North Korea earlier this year.

The panel alleges that the missiles were fakes and that there is no evidence that North Korea has fully-operational inter-continental missiles.

"Missile analysts express varying levels of doubts on the operational status of the Musudan and newest KN-08, neither of which has yet been flight-tested. Analysts debate whether the KN-08s on display may have been mock-ups," the report said.

The UN investigators said they would look into the giant transporter used to carry the missiles amid claims from Japanese media that it was of Chinese origin. Furthermore, the report voiced suspicions that the luxury Mercedes cars seen during the April parades were smuggled into the country.

“A journalist has told the panel that he observed more than 10 Mercedes Benz E-class E350 series cars in front of a Pyongyang gymnasium on April 16. The panel intends to collect more information on these vehicles,” the experts said.

Luxury goods are forbidden in the North as part of the sanctions introduced by the UN.

The report concludes that although UN sanctions appear to have slowed North Korea’s banned activities and made “illicit transactions significantly more difficult and expensive,” it has not halted them.