The Japanese press is in a fit about a Japanese-made vacuum pump that turned up in North Korea.

Apparently, the IAEA found the pump at Yongbyon, leading to police raids on two companies in Japan, according to the Daily Yomiuri, Kyodo News and the Daily Mainichi.

The Daily Yomiuri has the most detailed coverage:

The company that exported the pumps, Nakano Corp., has been shipping vacuum pumps to Taiwan universities and labs for about 20 years. Hiroshi Nakano, the president of the Minato Ward, Tokyo-based company, said Wednesday, “I wasn’t aware this was a violation of the foreign trade control law.”

“We never conceal the names of the items we export,” the 66-year-old company chief said. “I thought [the pumps] would be used for automobile development or for some research project. I was surprised to hear that the products we exported in 2003 were in North Korea and were being used at a nuclear facility.”

Tokyo Vacuum, based in Sagamihara, Kanagawa Prefecture, has designed and manufactured vacuum products and sold them to government and university research labs and electronics makers since 1992. According to a private credit research company, Tokyo Vacuum has about 10 employees.

Yomiuri reports, however, that the pumps were used “for uranium enrichment.” I think that is probably incorrect, given that the components were found at Yongbyon. The Daily Mainichi claims the “pump was used in the plutonium extraction process.” That’s probably not quite right either.

If I had to guess, I would assume the pump was part of the vacuum system at the Fuel Fabrication Facility that was disabled under the current deal.

Although the Japanese press is appalled, my guess is that the various illicitly acquired components of Yongbyon probably come from dozens of countries in Europe and Asia. This is the seedy side of globalization.

If you are interested, Robin Wright and Joby Warrick had a nice article in the Post about illicit North Korea procurement efforts.