North ‘missile factory’ used Japan parts

India took steel, devices from freighter in '99 New Delhi

NEW DELHI (Kyodo) Japanese precision tools and steel were found in missile-making equipment taken from a North Korean freighter detained at an Indian port in June 1999 while en route to Pakistan, a former senior Indian official said Saturday.

While North Korea is known to have provided missile knowhow to Pakistan in return for nuclear weapons technology, this is the first concrete example of how Japanese equipment has played a part in North Korea’s proliferation of missile technology.

K. Santhanam, a senior official in India’s Defense Research and Development Organization, told Kyodo News that the North Korean cargo contained a device for three-dimensional measuring, a numerically controlled machine tool, maraging steel and other Japanese high-tech products.

Santhanam said he directed the search of the freighter Kuwolsan in his capacity as chief adviser to DRDO, part of the Indian Defense Ministry involved in missile development.

The Kuwolsan, described by some media reports as a “hidden missile factory,” was detained during a stop at Kandla in the province of Gujarat.

The Japanese firms named by Santhanam as the purported manufacturers of the high-tech instruments and maraging steel, which is used in rocket and missile frames, have denied exporting any of their products to North Korea.

Indian authorities believe North Korea acquired the Japanese products through China or other countries.

According to Santhanam, the Kuwolsan’s captain initially told Indian authorities his ship was delivering “water refining equipment” to Libya.

At India’s request, the United States, Russia, South Korea and other members of the Missile Technology Control Regime, an informal association of countries seeking to curb missile proliferation, sent experts to examine the ship’s cargo.

By analyzing Korean-language documents and sensitive equipment confiscated from the Kuwolsan, the MTCR experts concluded the ship was carrying missile-assembly equipment and missile parts.

Engineering diagrams of missiles were also found on the ship.

The ship’s 44 crew members were detained by Indian authorities and later repatriated to North Korea.