SYDNEY – A 59-year-old man from Sydney has been arrested for allegedly acting as an economic agent of North Korea, the Australian Federal Police said on Sunday.
The man, who has been named as Chan Han Choi, has been charged with “brokering sales and discussing the supply of weapons of mass destruction,” a police statement said.
Chan, who is a naturalized Australian citizen of Korean descent, is the first person to be charged under the country’s Weapons of Mass Destruction (Prevention of Proliferation) Act of 1995. It is also the first time anyone has been charged for allegedly breaching UN sanctions against Pyongyang.
Chan was arrested on Saturday after “extensive investigations” over a “period of months” led police to believe the man “was acting as economic agent of North Korea through his facilitation of various exports” from the DPRK.
The AFP alleges that he was involved in the sale of “missiles and missile componentry and expertise” from North Korea, as well as in the transfer of coal from North Korea to contacts in Indonesia and Vietnam.
Police believe that the missile components could be used in the “guidance of ballistic missiles.”
The man’s alleged offenses breach both Australian and United Nations sanctions against North Korea.
Chan faces up to 10 years in prison if found guilty.
AFP Assistant Commissioner Neil Gaughan praised investigators’ patience and thoroughness, and reassured the Australian public that there were “any weapons or missile componentry that ever came to Australian soil,” adding that there was no “immediate threat” to the community.
Gaughan said that the man considers himself a “loyal agent” of North Korea, “believing he was acting to serve some higher patriotic purpose.”
Australia has long supported the UN’s and the United States’ opposition to Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions.
Foreign minister Julie Bishop responded to North Korea’s most recent weapons test in late November by condemning the regime’s “illegal, threatening and provocative” actions.