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Japanese Police Raid Trading Firms Suspected of Weapons-Related Exports to N. Korea


In the latest crackdown on Japanese companies illegally exporting equipment that can be used to produce weapons, police have raided two small trading companies in Tokyo.

Japanese police raided the two trading houses Friday, after they allegedly exported to North Korea a freeze dryer that could be used to cultivate bacteria for biological weapons.

This is the latest in a series of similar incidents.

Since the beginning of the year, the Japanese authorities have investigated exports by motorcycle-maker Yamaha, for exporting remote-controlled helicopters to China, and Mitsutoyo Corporation, for exporting precision measuring equipment that ended up in Libya's now defunct nuclear weapons program.

The president of Japan's leading opposition party, told reporters Friday that he would feel "strong rage" if it is proved equipment was illegally exported that strengthened China's military might, or has led to the proliferation of nuclear arms.

The Democratic Party leader says any violators must be strictly punished, and, if companies have taken advantage of legal loopholes, then legislation is needed to ensure that such incidents cannot happen again.

News reports say that Friday's raids concerned a freeze dryer allegedly illegally exported to North Korea via Taiwan in September 2002.

Japanese media said one company is primarily involved in the trade of North Korean and Russian seafood. The other company, which has not been named, is said to export vehicles and electrical appliances to North Korea.

The export of freeze dryers is strictly controlled, because they can be used to manufacture biological or chemical weapons.

The U.S. government and other countries suspect North Korea has made biological and chemical agents for military use.

Japan and North Korea have no diplomatic relations. Talks to establish such ties have stalled, and the Japanese government is under pressure to impose economic sanctions on Pyongyang, unless it provides information about Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea in past decades.

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