Report: North Korea got nuclear knowhow via Berlin embassy

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N Korea flouts sanctions

A German public broadcaster reports that North Korea used its Berlin embassy to acquire high-tech equipment. The domestic intelligence agency believes that the technology was used for missile and nuclear programs.

North Korea procured equipment and technology for its ballistics missiles program using its embassy in Berlin, the head of Germany's domestic intelligence agency, the BfV, told the public broadcaster NDR in a documentary aired late Monday.

Hans-Georg Maassen Präsident Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz

'We can't guarantee that we will be able to detect and thwart all cases': BfV head Hans-Georg Maassen

"We determined that procurement activities were taking place there, from our perspective with an eye on the missile program, as well as the nuclear program to some extent," BfV head Hans-Georg Maassen told NDR.

Read moreWhich countries have diplomatic relations with North Korea?

Although he did not say exactly what kind of technology and equipment was procured, Maassen said they were dual-use goods that could be used for civilian as well as military purposes.

"When we detect something of this sort, we prevent it," he said. "But we can't guarantee that we will be able to detect and thwart all cases."


Coal and iron

In August 2017, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution banning all coal, iron, iron ore and lead imports from North Korea. Pictured here is China's Liaoning Greenland Energy Coal Co. in Dandong, on the border with North Korea.



North Korea is prohibited from opening banks abroad, and UN member states are prohibited from operating financial institutions on Pyongyang's behalf. Any dealings that might help North Korea skirt the sanctions are banned, and UN member states must expel and repatriate anyone working on the regime's financial behalf.



This North Korean cargo ship found itself boarded for inspection in the Philippines in March 2016 after the United Nations ordered member nations to de-register any vessel owned, operated or crewed on orders from Pyongyang. North Korean ships also cannot fly the flags of other nations to evade sanctions.


Air travel

Air Koryo, North Korea's national carrier, remains exempt from aviation sanctions and still has scheduled flights to China and Russia, as well as several domestic routes. However, the airline cannot fly to the European Union, which has banned it on safety grounds, and the United States prevents citizens from legally conducting business with the carrier.



In December 2017, a new raft of UN sanctions targeted fuel imports in North Korea, meaning its residents could have difficulties driving the country in Pyeonghwa sedans (pictured above). The sale and transfer of diesel and kerosene are limited while the import of crude oil is capped at 4 million barrels a year.


Bank accounts, real estate

UN sanctions limit North Korea's diplomats abroad — at the country's Berlin embassy, for example — to only one bank account each. North Korea is also not permitted to own real estate abroad for any purposes other than consular.


Military training

It's a safe bet that North Korea's marching military did not learn its moves abroad: UN sanctions ban foreign security forces from training the country's army, police or paramilitary units. The United Nations does permit medical exchanges, but otherwise allow very little assistance of scientific or technical value.



Anyone wanting to own a larger-than-life Kim will have to await the end of North Korea's nuclear program. The UN sanctions currently ban the sale of statues by the nation.

Read moreUS calls on Germany to cut diplomatic ties with North Korea

Maassen also noted that the parts for Pyongyang's programs "were acquired via other markets, or that shadow firms had acquired them in Germany."

The BfV obtained information on North Korea's procurements in 2016 and 2017, according to an investigation by NDR. These items were reportedly used for the country's missile program.

In 2014, a North Korean diplomat reportedly tried to obtain a "multigas monitor," which is used in the development of chemical weapons.

Read moreUN chief calls for 'peaceful denuclearization' of Korean peninsula

Related Subjects

North Korea sanctions report

The BfV's accusations follow a UN report a UN report that North Korea had been flouting sanctions.

The United Nations found that the country had continued to export coal, iron, steel and other banned commodities — earning $200 million (€160 million) in revenue in 2017.

Read moreKim Jong Un — North Korea has completed nuclear program, US will never attack

North Korea sold a ballistic missile system to Myanmar and may be helping Syria with a chemical weapons program, according to the report.

Over the past year, the United Nations has repeatedly tightened sanctions on North Korea in response to leader Kim Jong Un's continued ballistic missile and nuclear tests.


Major achievement

In early June 2017, North Korea test-launched an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) for the first time. Testing an ICBM marked a major military achievement for Pyongyang and a serious escalation of tensions with the United States and its allies in the region, particularly South Korea and Japan.


Trouble with warheads

At the time, defense experts said the ICBM could reach as far as the US states of Alaska and Hawaii. However, it was unclear if North Korea can field an ICBM capable of carrying a nuclear warhead on its cone that could survive reentry into the Earth's atmosphere. North Korean state media claimed the ICBM was capable of carrying a "large, heavy nuclear warhead" to any part of the United States.


Pyongyang's nuclear tests - six times and counting

The ICBM is believed to be a step forward in the North's nuclear program. Despite pressure from the international community, Pyongyang has made no secret of its nuclear ambitions. Alongside its ritual ballistic missile tests, North Korea has conducted nuclear tests on at least six occasions, including one in September 2017.


US running out of patience?

Responding to the first ICBM test with a show of force, the US and South Korean troops on conducted "deep strike" precision missile drills using Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) and the Republic of Korea's Hyunmoo Missile II. In April, the US sent its Carl Vinson aircraft carrier towards the Korean Peninsula, saying it was taking prudent measures against the North.


Testing the boundaries

Ignoring international condemnation, Pyongyang test-launched another rocket on July 28, 2017, just weeks after its first ICBM test. In both of the tests, North Korea used Hwasong-14 missile, but the second one reached a higher altitude and traveled a larger distance than the first one, according to the state media.


Whole of US within range?

Pyongyang conducted its third test November 29, using a newly developed Hwasong-15 missile. US, Japanese and South Korean officials said it rose to about 4,500 km (2,800 miles) and flew 960 kilometers (600 miles) over about 50 minutes before landing in Japan's exclusive economic zone off the country's coast.


One of the world's largest militaries

Apart from a developing missile and nuclear program, North Korea has a powerful army with 700,000 active troops and another 4.5 million in the reserves. It can call upon almost a quarter of its population to serve in the army at any given time. The North's bloated army is believed to outnumber its southern neighbor's by two-to-one.


Vast capabilities

According to the 2017 Global Firepower Index, the North has, as part of a far-reaching arsenal, 458 fighter aircraft, 5,025 combat tanks, 76 submarines, and 5,200,000 total military personnel. The picture above from 2013 shows leader Kim Jong Un ordering strategic rocket forces to be on standby to strike US and South Korean targets at any time.


Enemies all around

Alongside the United States, Pyongyang views its neighbors South Korea and Japan as its two other main enemies. North Korea has used US military exercises in the region as means of galvanizing its people, claiming that the exercises are dress rehearsals for an impending invasion.


Huge, colorful demonstrations of military might

Every year, hundreds of thousands of soldiers and citizens roll through the streets of the capital Pyongyang to take part in the North's military parades. Preparations for the rallies often begin months in advance, and the parades usually mark important anniversaries linked with the Communist Party or Kim Jong Un's family.

rs, mkg/cmk (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)