Lawmaker Ha Tae-keung of the minor opposition Bareunmirae Party on Thursday alleged that Japan smuggled hydrogen fluoride and materials used to develop biochemical weapons to North Korea.
According to Ha, Japan made over 30 shipments of hydrogen fluoride, materials for biochemical weapon development and other strategic items to North Korea between 1996 and 2003. Strategic items refer to goods and technologies regulated from exports, to maintain national security and international peace.
Lawmaker Ha Tae-keung of the minor opposition Bareunmirae Party holds a press conference at the National Assembly on Thursday morning. (Yonhap)
Ha cited a document by the Center for Information on Security Trade Control, or CISTEC, a Tokyo-based nongovernmental and nonprofit organization that conducts research and analyses on peace and security issues related to Japan’s exports.
“Recently some Japanese have made a fallacious argument alleging South Korea smuggled out hydrogen fluoride used in nuclear weapons, citing South Korean government documents. But Japan’s (CISTEC) document reports of Japan being caught after attempting to illegally export hydrogen fluoride to North Korea. This is expected to have repercussions,” said Ha, a member of the National Assembly’s National Defense Committee, in a press conference held Thursday at the National Assembly.
“Amid worsening South Korea and Japan relations, Japan should stop responding emotionally. If it continues to make fallacious claims, Japan will find itself isolated from the international community. Japan should also immediately rescind unfair export restrictions,” Ha added.
Ha said 50 kilograms of sodium fluoride were shipped via a North Korean ship from a port in Osaka in January 1996. In the following month, 50 kilograms of hydrogen fluoride and hydrofluoric acid each were illegally exported to North Korea via a North Korean ship docked at Kobe.
“Hydrofluoric acid and sodium fluoride are subject to export regulations because they can function as base materials for murder. These were unlawful exports misusing North Korean ships that should have been used to send emergency rice aid to the North,” Ha said.
Earlier this week Japan’s Fuji TV broadcast a report alleging South Korea made 156 unlawful shipments of strategic items in the past four years, saying that this justifies Japan’s latest curbs on exports of high-tech materials to South Korea.
However, the report appears to have taken information out of context, as the cited government document actually showed that the South Korean Trade Ministry had found 156 cases of illegal exports of strategic items to North Korea during crackdowns in the past four years.
“There is no evidence that Japanese hydrogen fluoride was sent to North Korea. Japan should stop groundless criticism and bring forth hard evidence to support suspicions it has raised,” said Park Tae-sung, chief of trade and investment at the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.
“Some Japanese news outlets are casting doubt on the effectiveness (of Korea’s export control system), saying the Korean government has caught many unauthorized exports. But this is due to the increased number of monitoring personnel.”
Describing South Korea as having an “exemplary export control system,” Park added the US government, known for its strict export control system, also uncovers many cases of unauthorized exports and that only Japan has raised the issue with Korea.
By Kim Bo-gyung (firstname.lastname@example.org)