Tue 30 Jun 2009
Filed under: News,Regional
Japanese police arrested three top businessmen on Monday on suspicion of attempting to export to Burma a measuring instrument that could be used to develop long-range ballistic missile systems, Japanese newspapers reported.
Accordingly to the newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun, Japanese police initially believed that the three-all of them presidents of Japanese companies-were trying to export the device to North Korea via Burma.
But then suspicions hardened that the nominal North Korean importer had exported other missile development-related equipment to Burma, leading the police to believe that “North Korea was attempting to promote the transfer of missile technologies, such as its Taepodong system, to Myanmar [Burma].”
The three businessmen, arrested on suspicion of violating the Foreign Exchange and Foreign Trade Law, were identified as Lee Kyoung Ho, 41, an ethnic Korean resident and president of the trading firm Toko Boeki; Miaki Katsuki, 75, president of a manufacturing firm; and Yasuhiko Muto, 57, president of an export agency.
According to the police, the three conspired to export the magnetic measuring device to Burma via Malaysia around January 2009 at a price of about 7 million yen (US $73,000), the newspaper report said.
Export of the device is restricted under regulations that prohibit exports of products that could be used for weapons of mass destruction.
The newspaper said that around September 2008, the company had also tried to export the same instrument to Burma’s Ministry for Industry 2, which plays a key supporting role in Burma’s nuclear program as the chairman of the Myanmar [Burma] Atomic Energy Committee.
The Japanese newspaper report said both attempts to export the device were aborted immediately before shipment when Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry notified the company that it had failed to submit an export application.
The export attempts were based on an order by the Beijing office of New East International Trading Ltd, based in Hong Kong, in early 2008. The firm is believed to be under the direct control of the Second Economic Committee of the Pyongyang’s Workers’ Party of Korea. The committee is responsible for the party’s military procurement.
North Korea has a record of selling arms and military technology to Burma. It is suspected that this may include secret nuclear technology.
In 2004, a high-ranking US government official said North Korea had proposed the sale of missiles to Burma.
A North Korean cargo ship, Kang Nam 1, left a North Korean port reportedly for Burma on June 17, and is believed to be carrying weapons, missile parts or possibly even nuclear materials. A US Naval ship is shadowing the ship, which is being monitored under UN sanctions.