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Friday, August 25, 2006

Japan executives arrested over weapons-linked exports

TOKYO: Japanese police Friday arrested five executives of a precision instrument maker on suspicion of exporting devices that can be converted for use in manufacturing nuclear weapons, a report said Friday.

Mitutoyo Corp. exported two measuring devices to Malaysia without a license, the Kyodo news agency reported, quoting unnamed police sources.

One ended up in Libya before the former pariah state renounced in 2003 a previously secret programme to build weapons of mass destruction, it added.

It was discovered at a Libyan nuclear facility during an inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency from December 2003 to March 2004, Kyodo quoted the sources as saying. Police declined any official comment.

Metropolitan Police Department officials, who also raided Mitutoyo's head office in Kawasaki, west of Tokyo, suspect that the company also illegally exported devices to Iran, the report said.

Export of such devices requires authorization by the Japanese minister for economy and trade because of their potential application for military use.

The head office and plants of Mitutoyo had already been searched in February over allegations that the company exported a three-dimensional (3D) gauge each to China and Thailand without Japanese government clearance.
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