LDP panel questions validity of defector’s weapons claim

A Liberal Democratic Party panel urged the government Tuesday to inquire into the testimony by a man identified as a former North Korean missile scientist that more than 90 percent of the North’s missile components had been smuggled from Japan.

The Foreign Ministry should look into the case, for example by sending officials to the United States to have direct contact the defector, the panel members said.

During the meeting, one participant suggested asking the scientist to testify in the Diet.

“Although it is difficult to confirm (whether the claim is true), we hope to contact (the scientist),” a Foreign Ministry official said.

The North Korean defector, speaking behind a screen and wearing a hood to hide his identity, told a U.S. Senate hearing last week that the components were smuggled out of Japan aboard the ferry Man Gyong Bong-92, a passenger-cargo ship that sails between the North Korean port of Wonsan and Niigata port.

The man, who reportedly fled North Korea in 1997, also said the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (Chongryun) was involved in the operation.