TOKYO - The chief executive of a Japan-based trading company on Monday pleaded guilty to illegally exporting to North Korea two tanker trucks that could be used as missile launch pads, Kyodo news agency said.
The case comes as the global community enforces tightened U.N. sanctions against Pyongyang that ban all North Korean arms exports in response to its May 25 nuclear test.
In addition to shipping the trucks to North Korea via South Korea last year, the 50-year-old company head also pleaded guilty in a Kobe court to exporting four used Mercedes-Benz cars and 34 pianos to North Korea in breach of a ban on the export of luxury goods to Japan's unpredictable neighbor, Kyodo said.
Prosecutors were seeking a three-year jail term for what they said was an extremely serious crime, the news agency said.
Japan has in recent years uncovered a series of incidents of illegal exporting of precision equipment that could be used in North Korea's nuclear weapons program. Tokyo slapped a total ban on exports to North Korea last month after North Korea's second nuclear test.
Last week Italy blocked the sale of two luxury yachts to North Korea that police said were intended for leader Kim Jong-il.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said last week North Korea had no friends left to shield it from the world's demands that it scrap its provocative nuclear activities.
The United States has repeatedly urged North Korea to return to six-party talks on ending its nuclear weapons program, but Pyongyang has shown no sign of cooperating.
Washington has also been warning companies and banks around the world to avoid any dubious trade with North Korea.
(Reporting by Isabel Reynolds; Editing by Nick Macfie)