WASHINGTON - The United States said it believed China's assurances that it is abiding by sanctions on North Korea after charges that Beijing supplied technology for a missile launcher.
IHS Jane's Defense Weekly said that UN officials are investigating allegations that China violated sanctions imposed by the Security Council after North Korea unveiled the 16-wheel launcher at a military parade.
"China has provided repeated assurances that it's complying fully with both Resolution 1718 as well as 1874. We're not presently aware of any UN probe into this matter," State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters.
"I think we take them at their word," Toner said, adding that he was not aware of specific conversations between the United States and China about the launcher.
North Korea showed off the launcher, carrying an apparently new medium-range missile, as part of national celebrations on Sunday for the centennial of the birth of the regime's founder Kim Il-Sung.
Quoting an unidentified official, IHS Jane's Defense Weekly said China could be in breach of the two resolutions approved after North Korea's 2006 and 2009 nuclear tests if it passed along the vehicle since then.
US Representative Mike Turner, who heads a panel of the House Armed Services Committee, asked Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and intelligence chief James Clapper to investigate whether China supplied the launcher's technology.
In a letter, Turner quoted military specialist Richard Fisher as telling him that the launcher was "very likely based on a Chinese design" and that the technology transfer would have required a green light from Beijing.
"I am sure you agree that the United States cannot permit a state such as the People's Republic of China to support — either intentionally or by a convenient lack of attention — the ambitions of a state like North Korea to threaten the security of the American people," the Ohio Republican wrote.
"Indeed, the possibility of such cooperation undermines the administration's entire policy of investing China with the responsibility of getting tough on North Korea."
US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, questioned by Turner on Thursday on Capitol Hill about the possibility of tech transfers, said: "I'm sure there's been some help coming from China."
But he did not elaborate on whether that "help" constituted a violation of sanctions, saying: "I don't know the exact extent of that."China, which holds a veto on the Security Council, is the main supporter of North Korea, although it voiced misgivings over Pyongyang's defiant rocket launch last week.
North Korea described the launch as an unsuccessful bid to put a satellite into orbit, but the United States said it was a disguised missile test.
Separately, Japan's Yomiuri Shimbun reported Wednesday that China has stopped sending back fleeing North Koreans in retaliation for its ally's failure to consult Beijing over its rocket launch.