Thursday, July 2, 2009

US Ban Related to N Korea-Burma Arms Deal

The Irrawaddy News

The United States took steps on Tuesday to curtail what it sees as North Korea's ability to trade in missiles and nuclear materials, with the Treasury and State Department announcing actions against two North Korean companies, one of which is allegedly connected to the Burmese arms industry.

The US imposed sanctions and froze the US assets of Namchongang Trading Corp and Iran-based Hong Kong Electronics in an apparent attempt to choke off the firms’ funds.

The two companies are charged with being at the center of Pyongyang's attempts to export its nuclear and long-range missile technologies, according to US officials.

The US sanctions bar any US firms from conducting business with Namchongang and Hong Kong Electronics.

Accordingly to the Wall Street Journal on Thursday, US officials said Namchongang Trading Corp has aided the Burmese arms industry and was importing centrifuge equipment that North Korea is using to develop a uranium enrichment capability. Uranium, when enriched to a weapons grade, can be used to build atomic weapons.

Namchongang is headed by Yun Ho Jin, a former senior North Korean diplomat who served at Pyongyang's mission to the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN's atomic watchdog. He is also believed to be closely aligned with senior members of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il's government.

US officials alleged Hong Kong Electronics was playing a key role in facilitating the weapons trade between North Korea and Iran.

The Wall Street Journal on Thursday reported US Treasury Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Stuart Levey as saying, “North Korea uses front companies like Hong Kong Electronics and a range of other deceptive practices to obscure the true nature of its financial dealings.”

Meanwhile, the Japanese daily Yomiuri Shimbun reported on Thursday that the Toko Boeki trading company was linked by Japanese police with attempts to export high-tech equipment with arms applications to Burma, and is suspected of shipping several other devices with potential for making weapons of mass destruction to the junta as well..

Kanagawa prefectural police said North Korean Lee Kyoung Ho, the president of the Toko Boeki firm, was arrested on Monday on suspicion of attempting to ship a magnetic measuring instrument from Yokohama port to Burma via Malaysia on January 23, a device that could potentially be used to produce weapons of mass destruction, said the Yomiuri Shimbun.

The Japanese newspaper said Tokyo-based Toko Boeki has allegedly been exporting instruments that can be used to produce missiles to Burma without government permission since 2006, one year before the two countries resumed diplomatic relations.

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