China plays down UN report on N Korea, Iran proliferation

A crucial UN report has pointed to an illicit trade between North Korea and Iran.

Updated: May 17, 2011, 12:33 PM IST

Beijing: China on Tuesday played down a United Nations report that pointed to it as a trans-shipment point for banned missile technology and other illicit trade between North Korea and Iran.

The report, obtained by Reuters over the weekend, said North Korea appeared to have been exchanging ballistic missile technology and expertise with Iran in violation of Security Council sanctions.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry did not outright deny the report by a U.N. Panel. But it said the document did not have the authority of the Security Council and said Beijing scrupulously upheld punitive U.N. measures against North Korea.

The report did not identify China, but said North Korean-Iranian missile trade went via a country neighboring North Korea, which diplomats at the U.N. told Reuters was indeed China.

"This does not represent the position of the Security Council, and nor does it represent the position of the relevant Security Council sanctions committee," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said in a faxed statement.

Statements that China was the trans-shipment site for banned cargo were anonymous accusations, said Jiang.

"I am not willing to make any comment about such claims from anonymous sources," she said. "But I can tell you that China is conscientious and responsible in enforcing Security Council resolutions."

Beijing is North Korea`s only major ally, and its economic and diplomatic support has been important in shoring up its otherwise isolated neighbor. China also buys large amounts of oil from Iran, which is largely shunned by the West.

But China has also pressed North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons ambitions, and has supported Security Council resolutions that condemned North Korea for its nuclear tests and authorized sanctions.

The report was submitted to the Security Council last week by a U.N. Panel of Experts, a group that monitors compliance with U.N. sanctions imposed on Pyongyang after it conducted nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009.

The U.N. sanctions included a ban on trade in nuclear and missile technology with North Korea, as well as an arms embargo. They also ban trade with designated North Korean firms and demand asset freezes and travel bans on some North Koreans.

But analysts have said China has failed to enforce rigorously the U.N. decisions.

A U.S.-based think-tank, the Institute for Science and International Security, had said North Korea used China as a trans-shipment point for technology for a uranium enrichment facility shown to a visiting U.S. scientist.

Uranium enrichment could give North Korea a second pathway to developing nuclear weapons.