BEIJING (Reuters) - China denied on Friday any link to a batch of 69 Patriot missiles confiscated by Finnish authorities, saying the weapons were destined for South Korea.
“As far as we know these goods were made in Germany and were being sent to South Korea. This is a British ship which left Germany carrying Patriot missiles for South Korea,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin told a daily news briefing.
Some reports have said the missiles were destined for China, but Liu said that was not the case.
“I don’t see what connection this boat has with China. We think it odd that some people always link certain things to China. The facts are all very clear,” he added.
The surface-to-air missiles were found on Wednesday when authorities searched the cargo ship Thor Liberty in Kotka, southern Finland. They also discovered 150 tons of explosive material called nitroguanidine, which was not stowed properly.
Finnish authorities have confiscated the missiles found on the ship and arrested its Ukrainian captain and chief officer on suspicion of trying to transport the missiles via Finland without permission.
Finland requires those seeking to transport defense material via its territory to seek permission. In the past six years there have been 20 cases of defense material being transported without the required documentation with the latest incident appearing to be one of the largest consignments.
The ship was sailing under an Isle of Man flag and had stopped to load anchor cables on board.
China is subject to an arms embargo by the United States and European Union imposed after the bloody crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators around Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1989.
Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Ed Lane