India on Thursday strongly denied allegations in the media that a research centre in Dehradun may have violated UN sanctions by training North Korean experts who went on to occupy important positions in secretive military programmes of the reclusive communist nation.
The allegations came up in an Al Jazeera article, citing a UN Security Council report, that the Centre for Space Science and Technology Education in Asia and the Pacific (CSSTEAP) has trained at least 30 North Koreans in the last nearly 20 years of its existence.
The trained North Koreans included “Paek Chang-Ho, who was designated for his role in the launch of the Unha-3 rocket” on December 12, 2012, according to the UN Security Council report of February-March 2016. Paek is reported to be the vice director of Scientific Research and Development Department of North Korea’s National Aerospace Development Administration.
Currently, the centre has two students from that country studying there, the UN report said. One of them is affiliated with North Korea’s National Aerospace Development Administration, which plays a key role in the country’s nuclear development programme.
But India denied that the institute conducted courses that could help North Koreans in training or transferring nuclear-related, ballistic missile-related or other weapons of mass destruction-related programmes as alleged in the Al Jazeera article.
“We have come across the article. The insinuation in the article regarding India’s assistance to North Korea’s UN proscribed activities is baseless and without any merit,” External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup said in a statement.
The UN report said one of the courses offered instructions that “could be directly relevant” to “designing and testing a launch vehicle using ballistic missile technology, such as those on launch vehicles, attitude control, and telemetry, tracking, command and data-handling systems”.
Swarup said the UN report was the result of “subjective” and “limited understanding” of the experts “who have authored it”.
“India has made its position clear in this regard to the UN Security Council. The topics covered in the courses offered by CSSTEAP are very general and cover basic principles in the respective areas,” the spokesperson said.
The UN-sponsored centre was established in 1995 to ensure that “no country in the region will have to look abroad for expertise in space science and technology application”.
The UN report said the courses offered by the centre were not deliberately designed to assist ballistic missile development but the expert panel’s assessment “is that certain modules or sub-modules constitute specialised training that could be used by (North) Korea in its prohibited activities.
“Participation in the space and atmospheric science and global navigation satellite systems courses is a ballistic missile-related activity prohibited” under UN resolutions to impose sanctions against North Korea.
Refuting the contention in the UN report, Swarup said: “We believe that these courses are unlikely to contribute in any way to a violation of the various UN sanctions” against North Korea.
He said a representative of the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs (UN-OOSA) is a permanent observer on the governing board of the institute and its advisory committee, which evaluates and reviews the course curriculum and criterion for the selection of candidates, is also chaired by the director of UN-OOSA.