UNITED NATIONS - A shipment of graphite cylinders usable in a missile program and suspected to have come from North Korea were found in May aboard a Chinese ship en route to Syria in what appears to have been a violation of UN sanctions, diplomats said on Tuesday.

South Korean officials seized the shipment of 445 graphite cylinders, which had been declared as lead piping, from a Chinese vessel called the Xin Yan Tai, UN Security Council diplomats told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

South Korean authorities stopped the ship at the South Korean port of Busan, the envoys said, adding that the cylinders were intended for a Syrian company called Electric Parts.

South Korean officials informed the Security Council's North Korea sanctions committee about the seizure on October 24, the envoys said, adding that China had offered to help investigate the circumstances surrounding the incident.

"It appears the cylinders were intended for Syria's missile program," a diplomat said. "China assured us they will investigate what looks like a violation of UN sanctions."

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