North Korea proliferation report raises international, regional stakes | World| Breakings news and perspectives from around the globe | DW | 07.06.2010
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North Korea proliferation report raises international, regional stakes

A leaked UN document revealed to reporters in New York recently accuses North Korea of defying existing sanctions on arms control and nuclear proliferation by exporting technology to Iran, Syria and Burma.

A North Korean flag super-imposed on over the UN Security Council

North Korea defies UN sanctions by exporting atomic technology

As tensions over North Korea's sinking of the South Korean Navy warship Cheonan continue to rise, the leaking of the UN report claiming Pyongyang was exporting nuclear and missile technology to Iran, Syria and Burma was expected to further undermine the precarious peace on the Korean Peninsula and add to international concern over proliferation.

The 47-page document accused the communist regime in North Korea of circumventing United Nations sanctions by using a complicated network of front companies, middlemen and overseas criminal groups to export nuclear and missile technology.

The UN report comes just over a week after the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference in New York adopted a declaration upholding principles of nuclear disarmament which also included a specific call on North Korea to return to negotiations to settle the dispute over its nuclear activities.

According to US experts, North Korea has enough plutonium for six to eight nuclear weapons and is suspected of seeking to enrich uranium as an alternative ingredient for its bombs. Test blasts in North Korea were detected in 2006 and 2009, confirming Western fears that the communist regime had achieved a nuclear capability.

A pedestrian reads an extra edition of a Japanese newspaper reporting North Korea's nuclear test in Tokyo, Japan, Monday, May 25, 2009.

News of North Korea's atom tests shook the region

Although security analysts believe North Korea still lacks the technology to place a nuclear weapon on a missile, Pyongyang conducted a series of cruise and Scud-type ballistic missile tests in the Sea of Japan last year which experts believe were part of its pursuit of a warhead delivery system.

"The likelihood that North Korea is exporting missile and nuclear technology simply shows that North Korea is more advanced than other aspirants and as a result is trying to develop niche markets," Scott Snyder, a senior fellow for Korea Studies at the Council for Foreign Relations in Washington, told Deutsche Welle.

"In the missile area, North Korea has utilized this advantage for over two decades, based on technology from Russia incorporated into its systems through reverse engineering. North Korea's missiles capabilities have reportedly been of use in the development of both Pakistani and Iranian mid- to long-range missiles."

Nuclear ambitions now include exporting technology

The leaked report states that, while the UN sanctions were working to a certain extent, North Korea had developed smuggling channels using companies and individuals who operate outside the UN's asset freezes and travel bans.

Pyongyang was using "multiple layers of intermediaries, shell companies and financial institutions" and had used "a number of masking techniques," including the use of misleading source and delivery information on export cargo as well as falsifying content details on shipping containers to get around sanctions.

A South Korean watches a television broadcasting about a North Korea missile launch

Not content with its own ambitions, Pyongyang is aiding others

The communist regime was also accused of employing international crime syndicates to assist in the transportation and distribution of "illicit and smuggled cargoes," possibly including parts for weapons of mass destruction smuggled in kit form.

With UN sanctions biting and international pressure adding to North Korea's isolation, some experts see its proliferation activities as a way to generate much-needed revenue.

"North Korea has long pursued this trade as a means by which to earn foreign exchange," said Scott Snyder. "It is arguable that existing sanctions, by limiting North Korean options, might actually push North Korea further into trade in illegal items."

"There are strategic advantages that may accrue from this trade, but it is mainly being driven by the opportunity to develop a broader and deeper customer network for which North Korea is virtually a sole supplier."

Read more on North Korea's nuclear drive

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