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China has denied allegations that its firms had exported banned goods to North Korea, after Japanese media reported that Chinese-made missile transporters were sold to Pyongyang in violation of a U.N. Security Council resolution.
The Asahi Shimbun newspaper cited Japanese government sources as saying a Chinese company exported four large vehicles to North Korea last August that were capable of transporting and launching ballistic missiles.
Concerns that Beijing had sold banned military goods to the hermit state surfaced in April after a modern missile transporter some Western military experts thought to be of possible Chinese design and origin was seen in a military parade to celebrate the North's founder.
"Chinese companies have not exported any items which have been banned by relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions or Chinese law. Related reports are incorrect," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said at a regular press briefing.
The Foreign Ministry denied it had broken any rules in April but the United States said it would push Beijing to tighten up enforcement of the U.N. ban.
In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said "intelligence issues" prevented her from discussing the allegations in detail.
"I will say that we have raised our own concerns with China about allegations that Chinese entities have assisted the DPRK missile program," she told a news briefing.
"And we will continue to work with China and others in the international community to enforce the U.N.'s sanctions on North Korea's ballistic and nuclear missile program," added Nuland.
China is North Korea's main economic and diplomatic backer, seeing it as a buffer against U.S. influence in the region. Beijing is also a major supplier of food aid and oil to Pyongyang, which remains isolated by sanctions over its nuclear ambitions and rocket launches.
Under United Nations Security Council resolutions from 2006 and 2009, all states are banned from helping North Korea with its ballistic missile programme, its nuclear activities as well as supplying heavy weapons.
The Japanese report gave details of the vehicle shipment, including the name of the cargo ship and when it left China and arrived in North Korea, as seen by U.S., Japanese and South Korean satellites.
Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba would not confirm the report's accuracy when asked by an opposition lawmaker at parliament, saying it was an intelligence matter.
"I'm aware of the media report and I am closely watching the issue. But it is not appropriate to give details of the communication and the situation at this place," he said.