'Japanese hi-tech in N Korean missiles'

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The Independent Online
JAPANESE police yesterday raided three companies suspected of selling missile-guidance technology to North Korea for missiles that, perversely, would ultimately be targeted at Japan. The police investigation came amid growing fears that Communist North Korea has developed nuclear devices and ballistic missiles capable of delivering them over South Korea and large parts of western Japan.

Tokyo has been criticised for allowing Korean emigres living in Japan freely to send money and hi-tech goods back to North Korea, supporting the otherwise isolated and bankrupt regime of Kim Il Sung. But the sale of missile technology to North Korea would be more serious, violating not only Japanese law, but also the international Cocom (Co-ordinating Committee for Multilateral Export Control) regulations against strategic exports to Communist nations. In recent years several Japanese companies have been caught illegally selling military technology to the former Soviet Union and its old Communist allies.

The police yesterday raided the offices of Anritsu Corp, an affiliate of the electronics giant NEC, and two other companies, on suspicion of having sold spectrum analysers to Pyongyang in 1989. The devices measure the character of electronic waves, and can be used to improve the precision of missile targeting. Last week, Jane's Defence Weekly, the defence intelligence magazine based in London, said the North Koreans were using Japanese technology for their missile guidance systems.

Last year, North Korea successfully test-fired the Rodong 1 missile over the Sea of Japan, alarming defence experts in Tokyo and prompting the US to offer Japan help in building an anti-missile defence system. The Rodong 1, a modification of Russian Scud missiles, would be capable of hitting Osaka, Japan's second-largest city, as well as the outer fringes of Tokyo.

In 1987 a trading company in Osaka was found to have sold integrated circuits to North Korea. In the same year, Toshiba was shown to have sold metal-grinding machines to Moscow to help make submarine propellers quieter. Toshiba engineers were even sent to Leningrad to install the machinery in a military factory and ensure it worked properly.

Toshiba was also revealed to have sold high-powered computer chips to former East Germany in 1986-87. In each case, the companies falsified documentation to get around the bans on exporting strategic goods to Communist countries.