Suspect in Burma nuclear trade sentenced

Nov 5, 2009 (DVB), A Japanese national has been found guilty of attempting to export machinery to Burma that could be used in the manufacturing of nuclear weapons, Japanese news reported.

Keiko Li, president of the Tokyo-based trading house Toko Boeki, was today given a two-year suspended sentence by a Japanese courtroom, Kyodo News reported. The trading was also handed a six million yen ($US66,500) fine.

In passing the sentence, Judge Juichiro Kora said: "These (devices) could be used to produce nuclear weapons. It could have a grave impact on world peace and erode trust in our country."

He was arrested in June, along with two other men, after Japanese police thwarted an attempt by the three men to export the devices to Burma.

The equipment could have been used to develop centrifuges which are needed to enrich uranium, and key component of nuclear missile technology.

The men were believed to have links to a North Korean firm suspected by the Japanese government of involvement in the development of nuclear weaponry.

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.

Burma's apparently cosying relations with North Korea have come under the spotlight this year, with fears that the two countries are looking to trade in weapons technology.

The United States has repeatedly expressed concern about the relationship in recent months as it looks to kick-start a new policy of engagement with the Burmese junta.

Secretary of state Hillary Clinton said in September that tempering this relationship will be a key goal of the new policy.

Following an underground nuclear test in May this year, Pyongyang was hit with United Nations sanctions that encourage member states to search North Korean land, sea and air cargo.

The measures were put to the test less than a fortnight after the imposition of sanctions as a North Korean ship suspected of carrying weaponry appeared to be heading toward Burma.

After being closely tracked by a US warship, however, it eventually turned around and headed back toward North Korea.

Reporting by Francis Wade

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