Australian man tried selling missile parts to help North Korea.

Australian police said today that they had arrested a man accused of working on the black market to sell missile components and coal on behalf of North Korea, the first charges ever brought in Australia over the sale of weapons of mass destruction.

He came to the attention of authorities earlier this year, the Australian Federal Police (AFP) said.

AFP assistant commissioner Neil Gaughan told reporters, “This man was a loyal agent of North Korea, who believed he was acting to serve some higher patriotic purpose.”

He added, “This case is like nothing we have ever seen on Australian soil.”

Gaughan said the trade could have been worth “tens of millions of dollars” if successful. Cash-strapped North Korea has come under a new round of stricter United Nations sanctions this year after pressing ahead with its missile and nuclear programmes in defiance of international pressure.

The man had been charged with two counts under an act preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and with another four under legislation enforcing United Nations and Australian sanctions against North Korea.

The Sydney man was identified by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and other media as 59-year-old Chan Han Choi, who they said had been living in Australia for more than 30 years and was of Korean descent.

The man faces up to 18 years in jail if convicted. He did not apply for bail and will next face court on Wednesday.