SEOUL — In addition to the military threat it poses, North Korea is “likely” a state sponsor of drug trafficking, the U.S. State Department said in its annual International Narcotics Control Strategy Report.

On at least two occasions in 2004, the report said, North Korean diplomats were arrested after using their positions for drug smuggling. In one instance, Egyptian authorities arrested two North Korean diplomats with 150,000 tablets of a drug normally used to treat seizures. And in December 2004, Turkish officials arrested two North Korean diplomats and charged the men with smuggling more than $7 million worth of an illegal synthetic drug.

Though defector statements and various reports have linked the government to illicit drugs, the closed nature of North Korean society makes it impossible so far to confirm the link.

“Numerous instances of North Korean drug trafficking and trade in copyright products, and other criminal behavior by North Korean officials, in many cases using valuable state assets, such as military-type patrol boats, has caused many observers and the Department to come to the view that it is likely, though not certain that the North Korean Government sponsors such illegal behavior as a way to earn foreign currency for the state and for its leaders,” the U.S. report reads.

“It is impossible to say with certainty that such individuals were acting under the instructions of their government, and were thus engaged in state trading of narcotics.”

But, the report found, there have been numerous indications that the North Korean government has ordered some of its residents to grow opium plants to be processed into heroin.

“North Korean defectors and informants report that large-scale opium poppy cultivation and production of heroin and methamphetamine occurs,” the report read.

“The government then engaged in drug trafficking to earn large sums of foreign currency unavailable to the regime through legal transactions. Similar reports by defectors have not been conclusively verified by independent sources. Defector statements however, are consistent over years, and occur in the context of multiple narcotics seizures linked to North Korea.”

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