A North Korean man using a Cambodian passport has been captured in the United States after attempting to send controlled military goods to China.
Kim Song Il, who online news outlet NK News reported became a naturalised Cambodian citizen by royal decree in 2008, was arrested in Hawaii last month, after spending months arranging to purchase six pairs of military-grade night-vision goggles from an undercover federal agent.
Kim reportedly agreed to pay $22,000 for the goggles, and made a down payment of $16,000 to the agent on July 15 after receiving three of the sets in Honolulu.
In an affidavit obtained by Courthouse News Service, a US news outlet serving the legal sector, the special agent testified that Kim “knowingly and willfully attempted to export controlled items in violation of the Arms Export Control Act”.
The agent said Kim admitted on numerous occasions throughout their negotiations that he knew it was illegal to send the goggles to China and discussed how to conceal them during the purchase.
The agent reported watching Kim box up the goggles and fill in a customs document stating the package contained toys and towels.
When Kim returned the following day to pick up the remaining three sets, he was arrested, reported the Honolulu Star Advertiser.
The PVS-7 and PVS-14 goggles Kim was attempting to send to China appear on the United States Munitions List, making their unlicensed export illegal under the Arms Export Control Act.
The US government refuses to grant licences for the export of any of the listed items to certain named countries, with North Korea among them, as well as to any country the US maintains an arms embargo with, including China.
Kim Song Il also appears to have established companies, including two registered to the same address in Hong Kong, documents obtained by NK News show.
The name of one of the companies, Greenpine International Co Ltd, seems to point to a direct link to the North Korean government – in 2010, the US Treasury Department named a Green Pine Associated Corporation as being an arms dealer under the direct control of Pyongyang.
Following his appearance at the US District Court of Hawaii on July 16, Kim was transferred to Utah, where the case is due to continue.
Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak could not be reached for comment.
Mao Chandara, the ministry’s director general of identification, yesterday said he had no statistics on how many passports have been issued to North Koreans in recent years.
“North Korea is a sensitive issue, so we have to be careful,” he said, declining to comment further.
While figures are in short supply, a number of North Koreans are known to live and work in the Kingdom, and the countries enjoy friendly ties.
The North Korean Embassy in Phnom Penh yesterday refused to comment on Kim’s arrest.