A South Korean-born Sydney man was charged Sunday in Australia by allegedly attempting to make sales worth tens of millions of dollars for North Korea that included coal and components used in ballistic missiles.
These are the first charges ever brought in Australia over the sale of weapons of mass destruction.
The man had been charged with two counts under an act preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, Australian police said, and with another four under legislation enforcing United Nations and Australian sanctions against North Korea, Reuters reported.
Chan Han Choi, 59, had been living in Australia for more than 30 years, used encrypted communication to broker sales, according to police.
He was arrested in the Sydney suburb of Eastwood on Saturday and was due to face court later on Sunday, police said. He came to the attention of authorities earlier this year, the Australian Federal Police (AFP) said.
“This man was a loyal agent of North Korea, who believed he was acting to serve some higher patriotic purpose,” AFP Assistant Commissioner Neil Gaughan told reporters.
“This case is like nothing we have ever seen on Australian soil,” he said.
Gaughan stated Choi had been in touch with high-ranking North Korean officials but no missile components ever made it to Australia.
There have been high tensions recently on the Korean peninsula because of the ballistic missile launched by the North, in addition to the joint military drills between South Korea and the US which the North says they are as "preparation for war."
"Pyongyang claimed that its latest intercontinental ballistic missile launch in November had the range to reach all of the United States", reported Reuters.
“We are alleging that all the activity occurred offshore, and was purely another attempt for this man to trade goods and services as a way to raise revenue for the government of North Korea,” Gaughan said.
The man who did not apply for bail and will next face court on Wednesday, could face up to 18 years in jail if convicted.