Japanese used car dealer tried to export missile trailer to N. Korea

Thursday, October 16, 2003

A used car dealer was arrested Monday, Oct. 13, in the Japanese city of Onojo on a charge of shipping a truck trailer to North Korea for the transport and launching of missiles.

The story is taken seriously in Japan, which is still in a state of semi-shock from the launch on Aug. 31, 1998, of a Taepodong missile that soared from its pad in North Korea over the main Japanese island of Honshu, landing in the Pacific Ocean.

Zealous Japanese agents seized Takayuki Morita, whose dealership is named Zipangu, in Fukuoka prefecture, and four of his cohorts in an investigation into violations of the customs law, according to Kyodo, the Japanese news agency.

The agency reported that the four "falsified the trailer’s purchase price to avoid government scrutiny in exports by their firm."

Japanese police say Morita and his colleagues got permission from customs officials to export the trailer after saying that it was worth less than 300,000 yen, nearly $3,000, when actually it was worth 3.4 million yen.

The ministry of economy, trade and industry in March rejected their application to export an entire tractor trailer on the grounds that it was capable of towing missile launchers. The company also attempted, unsuccessfully, to ship tractors to North Korea through China.

North Korea is now said to be developing a missile that is capable of reaching the United States. The underlying fear is that such missiles could carry weapons of mass destruction, ranging from nuclear warheads to chemical and biological agents.

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