US urged to sanction China over North Korea arms

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 18 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 18 May, 2013, 12:54am

A human rights activist in Japan has written to 178 US senators and congressmen urging them to impose sanctions on three Chinese companies that were allegedly involved in assisting North Korea obtain weapons systems, in violation of UN sanctions.

Ken Kato, director of Tokyo-based Human Rights in Asia, is calling on Washington to act against Chinese companies that either constructed or delivered four Transport Erector Launcher units to North Korea in August 2011 - and is invoking the name of a Japanese Coast Guard officer who uncovered the shipment but later committed suicide.

In his letters, dated May 15, Kato wrote: "Although China aided North Korea's recent provocations, they pretend to be an honest broker and are winning concessions from the US for 'restraining' North Korea. I hope the truth will be shown to the world and China will be put under pressure to take responsibility for what [the companies] did."

The shipments only came to light in June 2012, when information was leaked to the media in Japan that the four, 16-wheel missile vehicles were produced by a subsidiary of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, and were smuggled into North Korea.

"North Korean nuclear missiles have become a serious threat to the US and the international community and those who aided the missile programme must be held accountable for what they did," Kato wrote to the politicians in the United States.

He is also demanding that the sacrifice made by Masaru Kawano in revealing the Chinese firms' complicity in the case be recognised. Kato said that it took the Japanese authorities all of 10 months to admit what had happened - and only then because the media had been tipped off.

Kawano was on assignment to the Foreign Ministry in Tokyo and was tasked with gathering information about weapons sales and terrorism when he stumbled across the shipment.

After details appeared in the Japanese media, authorities launched an investigation into how the information had been leaked. Kawano, 47, was found hanged in his home in Chiba Prefecture on June 20.

"Many believe Mr Kawano committed suicide to avoid the Coast Guard from being blamed," Kato said.

"This is an old samurai way of taking responsibility and protecting the honour of the family or organisation."