MOSCOW, April 8 (UPI) -- Russia has postponed the transfer of missile engines to China, out of concern the technology could be passed on to a third country – like North Korea.
Russia's space agency told local newspaper Izvestia China is not a member of the Missile Technology Control Regime, an informal and voluntary association of countries that coordinate efforts to block proliferation.
In order for the transfer to take place, the Moscow space agency official said China needs a legal foundation that requires it to fulfill nonproliferation objectives, first, before trading in missile technology.
China had hoped for a supply of missile engines, Yonhap reported.
The Russian official said Beijing and Moscow have formed a working group in order to find a solution. It's likely by the end of 2016 the deal would be settled, the official said.
South Korea press reported there might be concern on the Russian side the technology could end up in North Korean hands.
China is a traditional North Korea ally and Pyongyang's closest economic partner.
MTCR was established after an agreement was reached in 1987 among the Group of Seven or G7 countries, which includes the United States.
MTCR protocol prevents the proliferation of nuclear warheads that weigh more than 1,100 pounds and missiles that travel more than 180 miles.
Concern is growing that North Korea is developing more lethal weapons of mass destruction.
The Institute for Science and International Security in Washington, D.C., issued a report Tuesday, stating that it's highly likely Pyongyang has been extracting plutonium for nuclear weapons.
According to the organization, it is possible the North has produced 10-15 pounds of plutonium after 2013. To manufacture one nuclear weapon, about 2-4 pounds of plutonium is required.