Exclusive: China firm boasts about missile-linked North Korea sale: envoys

Tue Apr 24, 2012 2:16am EDT
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By Louis Charbonneau

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - A Chinese firm that intelligence agencies believe provided North Korea with the body of an off-road transport vehicle used to carry missiles appears to have a press release on its website that boasts about the sale, U.N. diplomats told Reuters.

Washington suspects that the Chinese firm, Hubei Sanjiang Space Wanshan Special Vehicle Co., did not sell North Korea an entire vehicle, but a chassis, and may have believed it was for civilian purposes, suggesting the company did not intentionally flout U.N. sanctions, a U.S. official said.

The official also said the firm likely made the sale to a front company that was used to mask the buyer's true identity. The company denies having trade links to North Korea.

U.N. diplomats in New York said that some U.N. delegations are also aware of the case and are looking into whether Hubei Sanjiang might have violated the U.N. ban on selling North Korea technology that can support its ballistic missile program.

Even if it is not a violation of U.N. sanctions against Pyongyang, the use of a specialized Chinese vehicle to parade North Korean missiles would be more than a little awkward, the Western diplomats told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

They said that a press release posted on Hubei Sanjiang's website last year appears to boast about the sale of the chassis that ended up in Pyongyang, though it did not name the customer. (www.wstech.com.cn/en)

The press release also said that the company was looking forward to future cooperation with "the consumer" of the item, which the diplomats said has the model number "WS51200".

It said the successful delivery of "the largest Self-propelled Overload Special Off-road Transporter in China" took place on May 17, 2011. The English-language press release also refers specifically to the vehicle chassis, which is what Washington believes Pyongyang purchased.   Continued...

A rocket is carried by a military vehicle during a military parade to celebrate the centenary of the birth of Kim Il-sung in Pyongyang April 15, 2012. REUTERS/Bobby Yip