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Japan police arrest several over N. Korea export
( 2003-10-13 15:46) (Agencies)

Police in southern Japan arrested several used car dealers on Monday over the export to North Korea of a large trailer that could be used for launching missiles, Kyodo news agency said.

The news came amid a simmering crisis over Pyongyang's nuclear program, with North Korea so far refusing requests to resume six-way talks that began in August, aimed at resolving the situation.

A police spokesman in Fukuoka, 900 km (560 miles) southwest of Tokyo, said that he could not confirm the arrests, but that officers had searched premises and homes linked with Jipang, a used car dealership in the nearby town of Onojo, on suspicion of customs fraud.

Company officials are suspected of falsifying customs documents to show the price of the trailer as less than 300,000 yen ($2,770), so that it would be exempt from strict export controls, Kyodo said. The real price of the trailer was more than 3.4 million yen, the agency said.

The company also made several unsuccessful attempts to export large trailers to North Korea, Kyodo said.

North Korea shocked Japan in 1998 by test-firing a missile over the country, which landed in the Pacific Ocean. It is believed to have other missiles capable of reaching Japan.

Earlier this year Tokyo began a huge security clampdown on the only passenger ferry link between Japan and North Korea, after accusations that it had been used to smuggle missile parts. ($1=108.3 yen)

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