N Korea-proliferation

By Lee Chi-dong

WASHINGTON, March 29 (Yonhap) -- A U.S. government official said Friday North Korea has taken advantage of illicit dual-used shipments to develop its nuclear and missile programs.

Simon Limage, deputy assistant secretary of state for nonproliferation programs, emphasized that North Korea is among several nations that pose a threat to global nonproliferation efforts.

He said especially North Korea and Iran have misused dual-used goods that have legitimate commercial applications, but can also be used to support illicit weapons programs.

"North Korean and Iranian procurement networks continue to exploit unwitting suppliers and trans-shipment hubs to acquire materials needed for their nuclear and missile programs," he said in a speech at the University of Georgia, according to a transcript released by his department.

North Korea's recent belligerence, the threat of chemical weapons attack on the civilian population in Syria, and the risk of weapons proliferation in Libya all illustrate the perilous link between illicit trade in dual-use items and global security, he added.

Limage spearheads the Obama administration's efforts to curb the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) worldwide.

"The proliferation of WMD and their delivery systems, as well as conventional weapons that can be used to destabilize societies, present grave threats to national, regional, and global security," he said.

Limage said such threats are real, citing the seizures of weapons-grade nuclear material in the nation of Georgia and Moldova in 2010 and 2011.

"Numerous interdictions of illicit dual-use shipments by the United States and our friends and allies indicate that efforts to develop covert WMD programs have not abated," he said.

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