KOBE, May 19 (Kyodo) — (EDS: ADDING INFORMATION AT 8TH, 9TH, 13TH GRAFS)
A trader was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of attempting to export to North Korea via South Korea two large tanker trucks that can be converted into launch pads for ballistic missiles, police said.
The suspect was identified as Chong Rin Chae, 50, a South Korean national, who runs a trading house and uses the Japanese name of Tadao Morita.
Chong, a resident of Maizuru, Kyoto Prefecture, on the Sea of Japan coast, has denied the allegations, the police said.
The police said exports of such trucks from Japan are restricted under the foreign exchange and trade law because they can be converted into military equipment, such as vehicles for transporting and launching missiles. Traders must apply for permission to export products that can be converted for military use.
Investigations showed that Chong allegedly shipped the two used tanker trucks to the stopover port of Busan in South Korea for export to North Korea from Kobe port in Japan on Jan. 28 last year without gaining permission from the minister of economy, trade and industry, the police said. Each truck is capable of carrying about 12 tons.
However, no permission from the trade minister is required to export such goods to South Korea, one of 26 countries which Japan believes apply their own strict controls and are exempted from Japan’s export regulations.
The police said this was the first known case of illegal exports of goods that can be converted for military use through one of such unrestricted countries.
Chong originally attempted to export the trucks to North Korea through Dalian port in northeastern China but changed the nominal destination to Busan after the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry asked him to apply for permission, the police said.
He then attempted to send the trucks to North Korea as transit cargo without being unloaded at Busan port. But South Korean customs authorities did not allow the trucks to be sent to the North, the police said.
The two trucks are currently being held in South Korea at the request of the Japanese ministry, they said.
The foreign exchange and trade law sets penalties of up to five years of imprisonment, a fine of up to 2 million yen or both for those who conduct such transactions without obtaining permission.
Chong’s trading house deals in secondhand motor vehicles and engaged in transactions with North Korea before Japan imposed economic sanctions on the North in response to its nuclear test in October 2006, the police said.
The importer of the trucks is a North Korean trading house which the Japanese trade ministry designates as a foreign firm suspected of being involved in the development of weapons of mass destruction, such as missiles, the police said.
Filed Under: Aerospace + defense