Chinese firm may have aided North Korea nuclear weapons program

SEOUL, Sept. 20 (UPI) — A Chinese firm that describes itself as a “golden bridge for connecting North Korea and the world” is at the center of a U.S. and China probe.

Hongxiang Industrial Development Co., a large conglomerate owned by a member of the Chinese Communist Party, might have been supplying the Kim Jong Un regime with material that has contributed to its nuclear weapons program, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday.

The investigations by officials of both the United States and China appear to have taken place concurrently.

Last Thursday Chinese police began a probe into Hongxiang Industrial for long-term support of “serious economic crimes,” and local authorities froze assets belonging to the company founder, 44-year-old Ma Xiaohong.

The U.S. Justice Department also sent prosecutors to Beijing in August to communicate their own findings on Ma. The Chinese businesswoman’s companies are responsible for sending materials to North Korea for nuclear weapons development, according to U.S. findings.

Ma founded Hongxiang Industrial in 2000 and grew the business to cover operations that include China-North Korea trade and cross-border travel.

A Chinese government-run corporate registry shows the company trades in coal, chemicals, metals, textiles and machine equipment, according to The Journal.

Some of the goods could be used for both civilian and military purposes, and researchers from two think tanks in Washington and Seoul say the firm has sent aluminum oxide to North Korea, which can be used in developing the centrifuges used in uranium enrichment.

In September 2015, the company sold $253,219 worth of aluminum oxide to North Korea, according to customs data.

On Tuesday, South Korea’s foreign ministry said any Chinese firms under U.S. and Chinese investigations are to be evaluated according to United Nations Security Council sanctions Resolution 2270, Newsis reported.

The ministry said it is in communication with the Chinese government so Beijing may play a “constructive role” in pressuring North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons program.

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