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Norwegian Police Find European, Japanese And Possibly American Violations

October 22, 1987

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Norwegian police found European and Japanese companies, and possibly American ones, violated export control agreements by selling the Soviet Union computerized milling equipment used to make silent submarines, according to a report issued Thursday.

Machine tool companies in France, West Germany, Italy, Japan and Britain sold computerized technology to the Soviet Union and China for 10 years, said the report on a seven-month investigation into the involvement of Norway’s Kongsberg Vapenfabrikk in the sales.

From 1974 to 1984, a subsidiary of the state-owned Kongsberg company sold the Soviets 140 machine tool controllers, the computerized device which controls propellers in milling equipment.

In Oslo, Norwegian police said Kongsberg had violated Western export controls more than 100 times by transferring the computerized devices.

The computer units were shipped through the European and Japanese tool companies, which attached them to milling equipment and re-exported them to the Soviet Union. Two of the systems were re-exported to China, said the report released by the Norwegian Embassy.

″The investigation has also brought to light information appearing to indicate that American companies as well may have supplied technology in breach of COCOM (the Paris-based Coordinating Committee for Export Control) regulations,″ the report said. ″This information has been conveyed to the American authorities.″ It did not elaborate.

Ambassador Kjell Eliassen said witnesses questioned by the Norwegian police said they saw U.S. machinery at sites they visted in the Soviet Union, which appeared to violate COCOM regulations. He said he did not know what specific equipment they saw.

The United States and Norway have already assessed the damage to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization from the quieter Soviet submarines, he said, but he declined to elaborate.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee staff members have been meeting for two days with representatives of the countries named in the report to demand that they investigate the alleged violations, said Bill Triplett of the committee staff.

The State Department said the report ″makes disturbing reading. It reveals a durable and well-established pattern of involvement by several Western corporations in Soviet attempts to acquire high technology with military applications.″

State Department spokeswoman Phyllis Oakley praised Norway for ordering the investigation, ″which demonstrates the serious and frank approach the Norwegian government has consistently taken toward investigating this problem.″

Norway, which has dismantled the Kongsberg subsidiary and proposed stricter export control legislation, published the report in an attempt to head off punitive legislation considered by Congress against Kongsberg and the Japanese Toshiba company, which collaborated in the sales.

Eliassen said Norway’s police had determined that only the four milling machines sold jointly by Toshiba and Kongsberg were used by the Soviets to manufacture the submarine propellers. The other end uses were not certain, he added at a news conference.

In one case, the machines went to Atomash, a Soviet company which makes nuclear power reactors, he said.

Following revelations of the sales to the Soviets earlier this year, the United States and its allies began revamping COCOM. U.S. officials are in Europe this week seeking an agreement similar to one signed with Japan earlier this month calling for uniform standards of control.

COCOM signatories have complained that uneven standards have enabled the Soviets to find loopholes and get strategic materials and high technology.

The Norwegian report named these companies as suspected of violating COCOM by re-exporting milling equipment: Forrest Line in France; Schiess A.G., Dorries and Donauwerke in West Germany; Innocenti in Italy; Toshiba Machine Company in Japan, and KTM Machine Tool Holdings in Britain.

All but West Germany have ignored two requests from Norway to cooperate in the investigation, according to the report, and Japan has so far failed to comply with a request from Norwegian police to interview several Japanese involved in the affair.

The absence of such cooperation, ″coupled with the fact that some of the other countries, at least so far, have seemed very little interested in cooperating, will at best slow down the Norwegian investigation, and at worst make it impossible to reach a full elucidation of the case,″ the report said.

Michael Bright, chairman of the British KTM Company, denied his company had violated COCOM. In a telephone call from England to Washington, Bright said the company had sold China two machines in 1980 but had received proper government approval.

The Norwegian report was based on 25,000 documents seized by police and interviews with 77 witnesses. It said 15 of those interviewed were suspects in the case.

The head of the Kongsberg subsidiary and two of the company’s technical directors have been charged.