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June 30, 2009 (DVB), Japanese police have arrested three men on suspicion of attempting to illegally export into Burma heavy machinery that could be used in the development of missile systems.
The reports surfaced yesterday on the Japanese news website, Yomiuri Shimbun, who reported that the three men, two Japanese and one Korean, were charged under the Foreign Exchange and Foreign Trade Law.
Concerns over Burma's military ambitions have been heightened in recent weeks with reports that a North Korean ship suspected to be carrying arms was heading in the direction of Burma.
Similarly, photographs obtained by DVB show a network of tunnels built with North Korean assistance beneath the Burmese capital, with leaked documents revealing plans to hold large rockets and satellite communication command centers inside.
The Yomiuri quoted police as saying that the three men, who were working for a Hong Kong-based North Korean trading firm, were caught with a magnetic measuring device "believed necessary for developing long-range ballistic missile systems on instructions from North Korea".
The export was attempted in January this year, at a cost of around seven million yen (US$73,000). Police reportedly believe that the same firm has transported similar machinery to Burma in the past.
According to the Yomiuri report, the firm's office in North Korean capital Pyongyang is believed by Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) to be involved in the development of weapons of mass destruction.
Reporting by Francis Wade