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Senator: ‘Many’ Chinese Companies Supply Parts for North Korea’s Weapons Program

Missiles are paraded across Kim Il Sung Square on April 15, 2017, in Pyongyang, North Korea. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

WASHINGTON – Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) said the North Korean regime has a “very elaborate” network of companies that are supplying parts for their missiles and “many of them” are located in China.

Reed, the ranking member on the Senate Armed Services Committee, was asked how North Korea, one of the most “closed” nations in the world, has been able to advance their ballistic missile program and nuclear program over the last few years.

“I think, one, is they have been getting outside help. I think the efforts recently at the UN and elsewhere and the efforts of the administration to squeeze that has produced some diminution of the help,” Reed responded during a recent discussion at the Council on Foreign Relations.

“My sense is they have a network of companies, many of them located in China, that provide parts for them. They have a whole series of front companies that do raise money for them, so they have hard currencies to use to buy things,” he added. “They smuggle things in and out. It’s a very elaborate and sophisticated network. There’s been some studies suggesting there are about 5,000 business entities in China, and just recently one of them in Dandong was shut down, but there are others who have been moving this material through for decades.”

President Trump has expressed frustration with China’s handling of the North Korea nuclear crisis. In July, Trump wrote on Twitter, “I am very disappointed in China. Our foolish past leaders have allowed them to make hundreds of billions of dollars a year in trade, yet they do NOTHING for us with North Korea, just talk. We will no longer allow this to continue. China could easily solve this problem!”

Reed said Kim Jong-un has been able to grow his regime’s nuclear program because he has taken chances to get there.

“I think the other interesting thing about why they’ve been so successful is that Kim Jong-un has risked failure. I think the father was a little more risk-averse in terms of he was waiting till they got a 99.9 percent, you know, that it was going to work for propaganda purposes,” he said. “They’ve fired missiles that have failed. They have tried different things and he has made it central to his regime, his personality, his survival, etc.”

Reed, a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said he hopes Defense Secretary James Mattis, National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly can focus in the face of President Trump’s frequent and sometimes controversial tweeting.

“I hope there’s a very healthy dialogue before the president says it. One of the concerns I have is that General Mattis, General Kelly are all reacting to tweets, not talking about what’s the best way to frame this message and that’s something – a more disciplined approach where they can weigh in, I think that would be helpful to the administration and to this president,” he said.

Reed was also asked about the status of the Intelligence Committee’s investigation into Russia’s influence on the campaign during the 2016 presidential election. Reed said he believes the investigation would not wrap up in the next couple of months.

“I think we’ll go into next year because there’s a huge amount of material to look at and, frankly, every day new aspects of the intrusions or interference become evident,” he said.

The senator added that he has not seen any evidence yet of collusion.

“I have not seen any, no,” he said. “Frankly … from the perspective of the congressional committees, again, we’re looking at what the Russians did, how they did it, what steps will we have to take to prevent it from happening again. It is a legislative investigation. Those issues are all outside our – many times outside our purview.”