Kim Jong Un’s rockets are getting an important boost — from ChinaApril 13, 2017
The Washington Post:
When North Korea launched its Kwangmyongsong-4 satellite into space last February, officials heralded the event as a birthday gift for dead leader Kim Jong Il. But the day also brought an unexpected prize for the country’s adversaries: priceless intelligence in the form of rocket parts that fell into the Yellow Sea.
Entire sections of booster rocket were snagged by South Korea’s navy and then scrutinized by international weapons experts for clues about the state of North Korea’s missile program. Along with motor parts and wiring, investigators discerned a pattern. Many key components were foreign-made, acquired from businesses based in China.
The trove “demonstrates the continuing critical importance of high-end, foreign-sourced components” in building the missiles North Korea uses to threaten its neighbors, a U.N. expert team concluded in a report released last month. When U.N. officials contacted the implicated Chinese firms to ask about the parts, the report said, they received only silence.
China’s complex relationship with North Korea was a key topic during last week’s U.S. visit by President Xi Jinping, as Trump administration officials urged Chinese counterparts to apply more pressure on Pyongyang to halt its work on nuclear weapons and long-range delivery systems. Yet, despite China’s public efforts to rein in North Korea’s provocative behavior, Chinese companies continue to act as enablers, supplying the isolated communist regime with technology and hardware that allow its missiles to take flight, according to current and former U.S. and U.N. officials and independent weapons experts.
The private assistance has included sensitive software and other items specifically banned for export to North Korea under U.N. Security Council sanctions, the officials and experts said.
China has officially denied that such illegal exports exist, but investigations show restricted products were shipped privately to North Korea as recently as 18 months ago. Still unclear, analysts said, is whether the Chinese government tacitly approved of the exports, or is simply unable or unwilling to police the thousands of Chinese companies that account for more than 80 percent of all foreign goods imported by North Korea each year.
“There’s all kinds of slack in the system,” said Joshua Pollack, a former consultant to U.S. government agencies on arms control and a senior research associate with the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies. “It could be that the Chinese don’t care enough to do much about it. A second possibility it that they don’t have the systems — such as strong export controls — in place. Or that it’s just corruption.”