Panetta: China Has Assisted North Korea Missile Program

Posted April 20th, 2012 at 2:25 am (UTC-5)
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U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says China has provided “some help” to North Korea with its ballistic missile program, even as Beijing insists that it has not violated U.N. sanctions prohibiting such activity.

Panetta made his comments Thursday after being asked during a Congressional hearing if China had supported North Korea's missile program through “trade and technology exchanges.”

“I'm sure there's been some help coming from China. I don't know, you know, the extent of that. I think we'd have to deal with it in another context in terms of the sensitivity of that information. But clearly there's been assistance along those lines.”

Panetta's comments come after a report in Jane's Defence Weekly claimed that a vehicle recently spotted carrying a missile during a North Korean military parade looks similar to those designed and manufactured in China.

Analysts told the publication that the development could mean that China has violated U.N. Security Council Resolution 1874, which prohibits the supplying of Pyongyang's weapons program with arms, money, training or other assistance.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Liu Weimin on Thursday denied that Beijing has done anything wrong in connection with the vehicle.

“China has always opposed the spread of weapons of mass destruction and their launching. We have always implemented the relevant resolutions of the Security Council and seriously carry out the laws and regulations of the export controls. We have a series of extremely strict measures in place.”

Meanwhile, State Department spokesperson Mark Toner said Thursday that Washington is not aware of any evidence that China violated the U.N. arms embargo.

Arms transfer expert Pieter Wezeman of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute told the Associated Press that it would be difficult to prove whether Beijing violated U.N. sanctions because the vehicle could have been imported to North Korea from a third country, or it might have been meant for civilian purposes.

Michael Green of the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies said at a U.S. congressional hearing Wednesday that China is not properly implementing the Security Council sanctions. He said he has seen evidence of North Korean companies on the sanctions list operating openly in China. And he said the Security Council sanctions committee has been ineffective.

“The sanctions committee of the Security Council has not done anything since it was originally charged to look at this in 2009.”

When questioned by VOA Thursday, the head of the North Korea sanctions committee, Portuguese Ambassador José Filipe Moraes Cabral, said the sanctions committee has not yet discussed the alleged Chinese violation. He said the committee's experts are “doing their work” and a report is due in May.