US & World

North Korea is using its Berlin embassy to acquire nuclear tech, intel chief says

Report finds evidence of dual-use purchases

(CNN) - North Korea has been acquiring technology for its nuclear weapons program through its Berlin embassy, according to Germany's intelligence chief.

"We determined that from there (the North Korean embassy in Berlin) weapons procurement took place, in our view, with an eye toward the missile program and in part also the nuclear program," the head of Germany's Security Agency (BfV), Hans-Georg Maassen, told CNN affiliate ARD.

"If we find such things, we stop it, but we cannot guarantee that this can be prevented in all cases," he said in a press release from the public broadcaster ahead of a documentary about North Korea's missile program to be aired Monday.

Maassen said authorities believe parts for North Korea's weapons program were "acquired through shadow buyers or shadow markets abroad, which they then bought in Germany."

Many of the purchases were so-called dual-use goods that could be used for both civil and military purposes, he said.

German authorities received evidence of product purchases destined for North Korea's missile program in 2016 and 2017, according to the documentary.

The report alleges a North Korean diplomat tried in 2014 to acquire a monitor that measures gas emissions during the production of chemical weapons.

A spokesman from the North Korean embassy in Berlin told CNN the report was "simply not true."

''We reject and distance ourselves from local media reports over the weekend that our embassy was used to obtain technology secretly for any nuclear weapons program," the spokesman said.

The German Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it was not currently aware of any illegal activities at the North Korean embassy in Berlin.

"Should employees of the North Korean embassy in Berlin pursue illegal activities in future, we will crack down on them," the ministry said.

Maassen's comments come as the United Nations revealed North Korea earned almost $200 million from exporting banned commodities last year, in violation of international sanctions.

The rogue regime's repeated weapons tests saw the UN Security Council pass increasingly strict resolutions against Pyongyang in 2017. The measures, passed after intense lobbying by Washington, targeted energy, money transfers and shipping.

However, UN Investigators in a recent report found that North Korea "is already flouting the most recent resolutions by exploiting global oil supply chains, complicit foreign nationals, offshore company registries and the international banking system."

Correction: This article has been updated to amend the statement given to CNN by the German Foreign Ministry.