North Korea uses Malaysia in illegal arms trade, says report

malaysia-northkoreaKUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia may inadvertently be a party to the sale of North Korean arms.

An article in The Diplomat yesterday highlighted how North Korea used at least two companies with links to Pyongyang and Malaysia to skirt international restrictions.

It said the cases show that North Korea has continued to profit from marketing arms and related military equipment despite extensive UN arms embargo and sanctions.

It was written by Daniel Salisbury, a postdoctoral fellow at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS) in Monterey, US, and Endi Mato, a Davis UWC Fellow at CNS.

According to the article, following the assassination of Kim Jong Nam, the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 in February, North Korea watchers and sanctions experts turned their attention to North Korea’s relationship with Malaysia.

It said two cases uncovered by investigators surrounding Malaysian-based companies Glocom and Kay Marine seemingly involve North Korea’s use of Malaysia to breach the UN arms embargo.

It added that even earlier, in the late 2000s, the Obama administration had expressed concern that “Malaysia was becoming the ‘new Dubai’ for illicit (arms) traders”.

It said UN reports in 2013 and 2016 suggested that Malaysia had been used as a meeting venue by North Korean arms dealers, or that they had travelled through the country.

More details of North Korean business activities in Malaysia have emerged in two cases in the past few months involving Glocom and Kay Marine.

The 2017 UN North Korea panel of experts report noted that Glocom was said to be a “Malaysia-based company” advertising “radio communications equipment for military and paramilitary organisations”.

The UN report described Glocom as a “front company of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea company Pan Systems Pyongyang Branch”.

The article said there is also a suggestion that Malaysia played a role as a transshipment or transit hub, with a shipment of radio gear being seized en route to a phantom end user in Thailand in 2011.

The network, it noted, was recently active with a new Glocom website advertising new products in January 2017, and the seizure of Glocom radio equipment en route from Beijing to Eritrea in July 2016.

According to the article, Kay Marine, a boat builder sanctioned by the US in 2016, has marketed arms on behalf of North Korea.

It said both companies present a seemingly credible facade obscuring North Korean involvement.

The Diplomat article added that there are likely more Glocoms and Kay Marines in Malaysia and elsewhere.