Australian charged with trying to sell North Korean missile parts
Kim Jong un, North Korean President
A naturalized Australian faced court on Sunday after being charged with acting as an economic agent for North Korea, brokering sales of missile parts and illegal exports.
Police told the bail court Sunday that Chan Han Choi, 59, from the northern Sydney suburb of Eastwood, had allegedly tried to facilitate exports of North Korean missile parts and breach international sanctions on North Korean coal exports.
Chan did not appear in court and was formally denied bail.
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told reporters he had been briefed on the “very, very serious matter” and congratulated police for their investigation.
“North Korea is a dangerous, reckless, criminal regime threatening the peace of the region, it supports itself by breaching UN sanctions, not simply by selling commodities like coal and other goods, but also by selling weapons, by selling drugs, by engaging in cyber crime,” Turnbull said.
“It is vitally important that all nations work relentlessly to enforce those sanctions because the more economic pressure that can be brought on North Korea, the sooner that regime will be brought to its senses.
“The charges that are being laid are of the gravest nature, so I’ll say no more about the facts of the case, obviously it will be dealt with in court,” Turnbull told reporters.
“It’s alleged Chan was involved in brokering sales of North Korean missile components, including software for the guidance of ballistic missiles as well as North Korean missile expertise to international entities,” Australian Federal Police Assistant Commissioner Neil Gaughan said.
Police also claim the man was trying to transfer coal from North Korea to non-government buyers in Indonesia and Vietnam.
Gaughan said if the deals were successful it would have led to tens of millions of dollars going to North Korea in breach of international trade sanctions.
Choi is understood to have been born in South Korea and lived in Australia for more than 30 years. Police said he had been under investigation since 2008. Police acted after a tip-off from another international agency.
“This is black market 101: People trying to use the black market to get things they shouldn’t get hold of and receive money in return,” Gaughan said.
“This man was a loyal agent of North Korea, who believed he was acting to serve some higher patriotic purpose.
“I think at the end of the day he would sell whatever he could to make money back for the North Korean government.”
Gaughan said no weapons or missile components ever came to Australia, adding that police were alleging that all activity occurred “offshore.”
The case marks the first time someone in Australia has faced such charges under the country’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Act. The man faces a maximum penalty of ten years jail if found guilty.
North Korea has intensified its missile tests this year, raising international concern over a possible nuclear disaster.
In late November, the country launched a Hwasong-15 missile to an altitude of 4,475 kilometres and a distance of 950 kilometres – a substantial increase in the range of the North Korean program, with experts warning the US mainland could soon be within reach of an attack.
Earlier, on September 3, North Korea prompted worldwide condemnation after conducting its sixth and most powerful nuclear test.(dpa/NAN)