A Chinese shipping company that exported to North Korea four large vehicles capable of transporting ballistic missiles last year is suspected of having links to a North Korean arms dealer, sources in the Japanese government said.
The Dalian Qingsong company, based in Dalian, operated several cargo vessels with similar features to the transport ship between China and North Korea, the sources said.
The Japanese government is gathering information on the Chinese shipping company. A U.N. Security Council resolution prohibits the sale of weapons systems to Pyongyang, and Beijing maintains that it has not violated the mandate.
China says that the four vehicles were exported for the civilian purpose of transporting large pieces of lumber, although a detailed export document, seized by the Japanese government, show that they were developed for transporting ballistic missiles.
According to the sources, the North Korean arms dealer could have been involved in the Chinese company's exports from the beginning.
The Chinese shipper operates the Harmony Wish, a 1,999-ton cargo ship that transported the four vehicles to North Korea in August, and several other freight vessels that are similar in size and name.
In addition, the ships are registered with Cambodia, although the crew of each cargo carrier consisted of all Chinese except for a couple of Myanmarese crew members.
Each vessel made around 10 calls a year at ports in North Korea, including Wonsan, Chongjin and Nampo, over the past five years.
The name of the Chinese company is very similar to the Qingsong Group, a North Korean arms dealer, one of the targets of economic sanctions announced in May by the U.N. Security Council’s North Korea sanctions committee over Pyongyang's nuclear program.
Qingsong Group was established by 2008 to take over the business of North Korea’s Korea Mining Development Trading Corp., which deals in weapons and military equipment, after it was slapped with U.S. sanctions.
Qingsong Group, which is believed to be under the control of North Korea’s intelligence services, has branches in Italy, Australia, Malaysia and China.
No details about the Dalian Qingsong shipping company are available, and it has no website.
China refuses to accept any on-site inspection by a panel of experts under the U.N. Security Council sanctions committee.
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