Press: North Korea attempted to acquire Czech military materials and drones

Military parade in North Korea, photo: Uri Tours, CC BY-SA 2.0

Diplomats from North Korea planned to smuggle military materials and drones from the Czech Republic via Africa and China to Pyongyang, Deník N reported on Monday.

Military parade in North Korea,  photo: Uri Tours,  CC BY-SA 2.0
The Czech counter-intelligence service, BIS, were monitoring the planned smuggling operation and, with the awareness of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, put a stop to it, the newspaper said.

BIS officials became aware of the North Korean’s intentions at the turn of 2013 and then began monitoring a trade secretary at the totalitarian state’s embassy in Prague, Deník N said, adding that the Czech counterintelligence had upheld its description of the case.

A spokesperson for BIS, Ladislav Šticha, said it could not comment on old cases. However, Mr. Šticha said he could confirm at the general level that the agency had prevented a deal involving military materials headed from the Czech Republic to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Deník N reported that the diplomat had contacted a Czech businessman inquiring about spare parts for Soviet post-WWII T-54/T-55 tanks that are still being used by the North Korean regime.

The official was also seeking parts for BMP2, BRDM and BTR armoured vehicles and L-39 planes, the newspaper said. The latter were produced from the mid-1970s by the Czech company Aero Vodochody and are also used by North Korean pilots.

In addition to spare parts, the North Korean official was also in the market for small drones, specifically ones of less than one metre in span that would carry recording equipment and be airborne for less than an hour, a high-ranking source told Deník N.

The newspaper reported that three Czech companies had been involved in the North Korean official’s attempted dealings. However, none of them commented on the matter, it said.

The BIS counterintelligence service informed the government of the situation and called on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to expel the diplomat.

However, officials at the Černín Palace refused to throw the man out of the Czech Republic as just a year previously another diplomat involved in economic matters had been forced to leave the country over a different matter.

North Korea is under a comprehensive United Nations arms embargo that prohibits the exports of weapons to and imports of weapons from the totalitarian country.