Germany’s head of intelligence, Hans-Georg Maaßen, has warned that North Korea has been acquiring military equipment through its Berlin embassy.
Maaßen is president of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), Germany’s domestic security agency. In an interview to be aired today by German public broadcaster ARD, he said that BfV has noticed a number of attempts to procure technology and equipment by the embassy in recent years.
The specific technology North Korea acquired was not detailed, but it was reported that it has potential for both civilian and military applications. However, Maaßen told ARD that he suspected the military equipment in question was being put to use in North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme.
He said: “We have noticed that so many procurement activities have taken place from the embassy. From our point of view, they were for the missile programme but also partly for the nuclear programme.”
He also warned that, while on some occasions BfV has intervened to prevent the embassy from purchasing equipment with military applications, it cannot do so every time: “When we see such things, we stop them. But we cannot guarantee that we spot and block each attempt.”
How is North Korea supporting its nuclear weapons programme?
An investigation by ARD showed that North Korea first began trying to procure military equipment and technology through its Berlin embassy in 2016. The country’s latest ballistic missile test took place on 28 November 2017. In response, the UN issued a series of new sanctions, which blocked petrol shipments and restricted travel for North Koreans.
However, a UN report published on Friday accused North Korea of exporting banned commodities in breach of international law. The report alleges that the country earned some $200m (~€160m) from such exports, and named China, Russia and Malaysia as recipients. The report condemned these countries for failing to uphold their responsibilities to international law.
It also said that several unnamed multinational oil companies had been implicated in supplying petroleum products to North Korea, and are currently under investigation.