A classified United Nations report says North Korea and Iran have routinely shared ballistic missile technology in violation of U.N. sanctions, and diplomats say China has sought to block release of the report.
The document, seen by Western journalists, says the illicit technology transfers passed through a neighboring third country, which diplomats identify as China, North Korea's closest ally. Beijing has not commented on the report, which also includes accusations the technology was transferred aboard regular air flights of Air Koryo and Iran Air - North Korea’s and Iran's national airlines.
The U.N. Security Council imposed sanctions against North Korea after two nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009. Iran is also under international sanctions because of its uranium enrichment activities, which the United States and its allies suspect are weapons-related. Iran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.
The U.N. report, authored by a panel of experts, was submitted Friday to all 15 members of the Security Council. But the document can only be released to the public by unanimous consent of the Council.
The New York Times newspaper said the Chinese expert on the panel refused to sign off on the new report, under pressure from Beijing.
The panel's findings were first reported by Reuters news agency, which quotes the document as saying further evidence of the transfers was seen at a North Korean military parade last October. The report said the warhead for the North's Nodong missile paraded through Pyongyang had a "strong design similarity with the Iranian Shahab-3 triconic warhead."
China has in the past attempted to block reports critical of North Korea, and Russia took similar steps last week to block an expert panel report on Iran. Both Moscow and Beijing have argued that the United Nations should not impinge on the sovereignty of member countries.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP.