Pubdate: Friday, 3 March 2000
Source: Japan Times, The (Japan)
Copyright: © 2000 Japan Times
North Korean-made narcotics targeting Japan: U.S. report
North Korea is stepping up production of narcotics and some of those drugs are being funneled into Japan, according to an annual U.S. report on illicit drugs released Wednesday,
The capacity to manufacture methamphetamines in North Korea is being stepped up, says the report prepared by the State Department.
A large amount of methamphetamines seized in Japan in 1998 and 1999 could be traced to North Korea, the department said.
It cited an October 1999 incident involving transfers of North Korean-made methamphetamines at sea, possibly from North Korean trawlers.
Those drugs, which were seized in Fukuoka, amounted to 600 kg, one of the largest amounts of methamphetamines confiscated in Japanese enforcement history.
Russia and China are the key markets and transit routes for North Korean drugs, but North Korean traffickers are also turning to Japan because its illicit methamphetamine market is growing fast, with more than 2 million people consuming an estimated 10 to 14 tons of the drug per year, it says.
The department said there are regular news reports that North Korea encourages illicit opium cultivation and engages in the trafficking of opiates and other narcotics as a criminal state enterprise.
But the department said: "It remains unclear whether alleged North Korean involvement in illicit activities results from state policy, or is simply the actions of criminal individuals or entities.
"It seems more likely that the state itself is involved in drug manufacturing and trafficking," the report adds, citing repeated arrests of North Korean government officials.
On Japan, the report says the country is "not, and is unlikely to become, a significant producer of narcotics."
But Japan is believed to have one of the largest methamphetamine markets in Asia, it said.
Japanese law enforcement authorities seized record amounts of methamphetamines in the first 11 months of 1999, confiscating 1,900 kg from January through November - an amount larger than the seizure of the drug for the previous five years combined, the report says.
The report adds, "Japan also is believed to be a transshipment point for Southeast Asian heroin destined for the United States." But there is no reliable information suggesting that this transit has a significant effect on the U.S., it says.
Japan is suspected of serving as a major money-laundering center, and police blame this on organized crime, the report says.
In Tokyo, the National Police Agency placed local police Thursday on special alert for narcotics smuggled from North Korea and China.
The move came after the agency said last month it had found that 43.7 percent of the 1,975.9 kg in amphetamines confiscated in Japan in 1999 came from North Korean ports or airports, or was believed to have been made in North Korea.
The agency also ordered prefectural police to investigate smuggling rings controlled by gangs and to train experts on handling drug-related crimes.
March 3, 2000