Reports surfaced Wednesday that a Tokyo engineering firm, already in hot water over suspicions it illegally shipped missile-related equipment to Iran, might have also exported to North Korea.
The latest allegation focuses on a shipment from Seishin Enterprise Co. — which was searched by police Tuesday over the Iran allegations — to North Korea in 1994, according to sources.
The shipment was allegedly made on a North Korean ferry recently linked to Pyongyang’s spying activities.
The sources said Seishin Enterprise received a sales order in 1993 from a firm affiliated with a science and technology association under the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (Chongryun), a group that supports North Korea.
Seishin exported a jet mill, a high-powered grinding mill that could be used to produce solid missile fuel, to a firm run by North Korea’s Ministry of the People’s Armed Forces the following year via the cargo-passenger ferry Man Gyong Bong-92.
The ship, which regularly plies between the North Korean port of Wonsan and Niigata, allegedly operates as a key conduit for Pyongyang’s espionage activities, the sources said.
In 1993, tension on the Korean Peninsula was running high, due in part to North Korea’s test launching of long-range missiles and its nuclear weapons program.
The Metropolitan Police Department’s Public Security Bureau suspects the jet mill was used by the North Korean military, officials said.
Western intelligence sources have said that most of the North’s missiles are powered by liquid fuel, which takes several hours to pump before a launch, and that Pyongyang is hurrying to develop solid fuel.
Exports of high-powered grinding mills like those manufactured by Seishin are regulated due to their possible application for solid-fuel production.
Although police suspect Seishin violated the Foreign Exchange and Foreign Trade Law, the five-year statute of limitations has expired on the case.
Individuals and companies that export the machines must obtain a permit from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.
Prior to the alleged export, Seishin submitted a form to the customs office saying the equipment did not have military applications. It did not obtain an export permit, however.
Shinzo Abe, deputy chief Cabinet secretary, said the government has no comment because the case is being investigated by police.
Abe also declined to comment on the alleged role of the ferry. He nonetheless said that if the illicit practice is confirmed, the government will deal with the incident “in a strict manner.”
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