UN reports suggest Japan violated sanctions

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UN reports suggest Japan violated sanctions

Japan may have routinely violated international sanctions on North Korea by overlooking exports of banned goods like luxury items and mechanical equipment that may be used for military use, according to United Nations (UN) experts.

According to Yonhap News Agency’s analysis of 10 reports written by panels of experts to the UN Security Council (UNSC) from 2010 to last March, there have been several exports from Japan to North Korea that may have gone against sanctions, involving items like luxury goods or commercial machinery that had been converted for military use.

One of the reports from 2016 mentioned a commercial radar antenna shipped from Japan that was adapted for use on a military vessel, while North Korean aerial drones that were used to spy on South Korea and crashed south of the border contained several parts bought from Japan.

In addition, last year’s panel report said that a crane seen on a Korean Central Television broadcast of the loading of the North’s Hwasong-12 ballistic missile was likely produced by a Japanese company. The crane, now banned under UNSC Resolution 2397, was acknowledged by its Japanese manufacturer as being one of two units sold to North Korea in 1992.

Perhaps more notable, however, are the sales of luxury goods that went from Japan to North Korea in violation of UNSC Resolution 1718, which bans the sale of all such items to the North through UN member states’ territory, people or shipping vessels.

The reports showed that from 2008 to 2009, in particular, 18 luxury cars from brands like Mercedes Benz or Lexus, 10,000 cigarettes, 12 bottles of sake, a great deal of beauty products and items like pianos had were sold, or at least moved, from Japan to Pyongyang. In the same period, a total of 7,196 computers were shipped from Japan to the North, with some of these machines being used in the North’s development of nuclear or chemical weapons.

The findings in the reports turn on their heads accusations about security breaches that Japan recently leveled against South Korea to justify its restriction of key industrial materials to Seoul.

Last week, a Japanese official justified Tokyo’s export restrictions on key industrial materials like hydrogen fluoride by citing that Korean authorities had not taken enough precautionary measures due to their “insufficient oversight over trade practices.”

Chemicals like hydrogen fluoride may have gone through South Korea to make its way into the North, where it may have been used to produce chemical weapons like sarin, the official claimed, repeating a similar suggestion made by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe last week.

The Korean government dismissed the claims Friday, saying it would welcome an international investigation into its management of strategic high-tech materials, and that Japan should do the same. Blue House deputy national security director Kim You-geun invited the UNSC to open fair investigations into the two countries’ export control regimes to check for possible violations.

In contrast to the Japanese exports, the UN reports showed little evidence of South Korean products making their way into the North in violation of the sanctions regime, with one of the few exceptions being DRAM semiconductors collected from the remains of Pyongyang’s Unha-3 rocket.

Additionally, on Thursday, a Korean lawmaker revealed documents suggesting Japan had, in the past, covertly exported strategic industrial materials to North Korea that could be used to develop chemical or nuclear weapons.

Rep. Ha Tae-keung of the Bareunmirae Party cited documents from Japan’s Center for Information on Security Trade Controls that showed there were over 30 cases of unsanctioned exports from Japan to North Korea from 1996 to 2013. Among the items allegedly shipped to the North were dozens of kilograms of hydrogen fluoride and sodium fluoride, which can be used to make toxic gas such as sarin.

BY SHIM KYU-SEOK [shim.kyuseok@joongang.co.kr]
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