Report: N. Korean missile parts heading to Syria seized in May

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Report: N. Korean missile parts heading to Syria seized in May

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South Korea intercepted a Chinese ship in May bound for Syria carrying parts that could be used for missile production, a news report said Tuesday.

The case, included in a U.N. report, came amid lingering concerns over North Korea's ties with Syria -- and China's commitment to U.N. sanctions on Pyongyang, according to Japan's Kyodo News Service.

Citing U.N. diplomats, Kyodo said the Chinese-registered freighter, based in Shanghai, was seized by South Korean authorities in Busan. The ship was carrying 445 graphite cylinders, which are convertible to ballistic missile components, bound for a Syrian company with North Korean ties, it added.

The goods are believed to be made in North Korea, the report said.

Kyodo's article has not been independently confirmed.

The U.S. State Department said Tuesday it "cannot comment" on the issue.

A U.N. diplomat also pointed out that it is a matter that relates to a U.N. report neither finalized nor released publicly.

North Korea is subject to tough U.N. resolutions that ban the secretive communist nation from exporting and importing any materials associated with nuclear and missile technology.

The U.N. Security Council has a panel of experts to assess the implementation of sanctions on North Korea for its missile and nuclear tests.

The panel submits reports to the council on a regular basis.

While strong sanctions on the North are in place, many question their effectiveness without China's active cooperation. Beijing, the last remaining ally of Pyongyang, provides food, energy and other assistance to its impoverished neighbor.

Meanwhile, a security think tank in Washington suggested the North is continuing long-range missile development after a failed launch in April.

Citing an analysis of satellite imagery, the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University said Pyongyang appears to have conducted "at least two, and possibly more, tests of large rocket motors," the most recent in mid-September.

The institute added that construction activity on a launch pad was also detected.

"In the aftermath of the U.S. and South Korean presidential elections, Pyongyang may embark on a new round of activities in the first half of 2013, including rocket and nuclear tests that will contribute to further development of its nuclear deterrent," the institute said on its blog specializing in North Korea.

But it added, "Whether the testing of large rocket motors or construction at the launch pad are in preparation for such activities remains unclear at this point."

The State Department would not talk about the institute's report. (Yonhap)

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