News / Americas

N. Korea Demands Release of Seized Ship

  • Panamanian workers stand atop sacks of sugar inside a container aboard a North Korean-flagged ship at the Manzanillo International container terminal on the coast of Colon City, Panama, July 16, 2013.
  • Panamanian workers stand atop sacks of sugar inside a container of a North Korean-flagged ship at the Manzanillo International container terminal, Colon City, Panama, July 16, 2013.
  • A police officer stands guard aboard the North Korean-flagged freighter, Chong Chon Gang, at the Manzanillo International container terminal on the coast of Colon City, Panama, July 17, 2013.
  • A police officer stands guard as investigation officers look inside a container holding military equipment aboard the North Korean-flagged freighter, Chong Chon Gang, at the Manzanillo International container terminal, Colon City, Panama.
  • Antiquated military equipment in two containers aboard the North Korean-flagged freighter Chong Chon Gang, at the Manzanillo International container terminal, Colon City, Panama, July 17, 2013.
  • Military equipment sits secured with wire aboard the North Korean-flagged freighter Chong Chon Gang, at the Manzanillo International container terminal, Colon City, Panama, July 17, 2013.
  • A security officer walks on the deck aboard a North Korean-flagged ship at the Manzanillo International container terminal, Colon City, Panama, July 16, 2013.
  • Military equipment lays in containers aboard a North Korean-flagged ship at the Manzanillo International container terminal, Colon City, Panama, July 16, 2013.
  • A crew member sleeps on a mattress aboard a North Korean-flagged ship at the Manzanillo International container terminal, Colon City, Panama, July 16, 2013.
Related video footage
VOA News
North Korea is demanding that Panama release a Pyongyang-flagged ship seized in Panamanian waters, saying the commandeered Cuban arms shipment on board was part of a legitimate deal.
 
In a statement late Wednesday, Pyongyang's foreign ministry described the cargo as "aging" Cuban weapons that North Korea agreed under contract to overhaul. The statement also called for the immediate release of the ship, the Chong Chon Gang, and its crew.
 
Hours earlier, Panama called on the United Nations to investigate the seizure, as allegations swirled that the North Korean ship was smuggling arms in breach of U.N. sanctions.
 
Panamanian Security Minister Jose Raul Mulino said his government asked the world body how to proceed with the case, and said Panama intends to forward the ship to U.N. custody.
 
Mulino also said two more containers with suspected arms have been discovered and the 35 ship crew members are to be charged with crimes against Panama's internal security.
 
Panama stopped the ship Monday on suspicion it was carrying drugs, but instead found the weapons hidden under a shipment of brown sugar.
 
Cuba says the arms discovered on the vessel among tons of sugar were "obsolete" Soviet-era missiles and parts it had sent to Pyongyang for repair. Mulino counters that the weaponry was not logged as cargo, and is therefore contraband, "even if it is obsolete."
 
Communist Cuba is one of North Korea's few allies. It is isolated from much of the international community in part because of its rogue nuclear weapons and missile programs.
 
U.N. sanctions forbid North Korea from buying or selling ballistic missile or nuclear technology. The sanctions were tightened following North Korea's third nuclear test in February.

Vessel seizure spotlights sanctions, illicit trade issues

Brad Glosserman, an analyst with the Hawaii-based Pacific Forum, said the incident may show the effectiveness behind the sanctions, which were expanded following the North's third nuclear test in February.
 
"I think we should be taking some comfort in the notion that other countries are getting serious about trying to put the squeeze on North Korea and trying to convince them that they need to be better citizens," he said.
 
Stephen Noerper with the New York-based Korea Society agrees that inspection of North Korea's international shipping may be getting stronger following the sanctions expansion.
 
But he said the shipment shows that North Korea remains a threat to the international community, even if the equipment is "very outdated."
 
"It doesn't take modern equipment to create destruction and to create fear, as we saw in 2010 with the sinking of the [South Korean Navy ship] Cheonan," he said.
 
Noerper also believes it is not likely that Cuba was sending the weaponry to North Korea for repairs, as the Cuban foreign ministry suggested.
 
The United States says it "strongly supports" Panama's seizure of the ship. State Department Patrick Ventrell said the U.S. stands ready to cooperate with Panama if it requests help.
 
Ventrell said the Chong Chon Gang has a history of involvement in drug smuggling, and that the U.S. is in touch with Panama and is still gathering information on the exact contents of the ship.
 
Communist Cuba is one of few allies of North Korea, which is isolated from much of the international community in part because of its nuclear-weapons and missile programs.
 
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) said Wednesday the shipment of military equipment and Cuban sugar seized by Panama was apparently part of a flourishing barter trade between Pyongyang and Havana designed to get around U.N. trade sanctions and arms embargoes.
 
"North Korea is poor and its people hungry, but it has an abundance of Soviet-era military equipment as well as the technicians to service, repair and upgrade old Soviet or Chinese military equipment in exchange for food or much-needed foreign currency," SIPRI said.
 
Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.

You May Like

Nigeria Incumbent in Tight Spot as Poll Nears

Muhammadu Buhari is running a strong challenge to Goodluck Jonathan, amid a faltering economy and Boko Haram security worries More

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo tells VOA that despite her fame, life is still a struggle as she waits for government's promise of support to arrive More

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

At least seven different indigenous groups in Ratanakiri depend mainly on forest products for their survival, say they face loss of their land, traditional way of life More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: thuong from: san jose
July 18, 2013 3:16 AM
North Korea has no power to demand anything....
Just a crying baby for food.

by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
July 18, 2013 2:11 AM
A similar incident was reported in 2020. It said a smuggling ship with war planes and arms made in Soviet Union was captured by the authrities of South Africa. Arms were shipped in China and went through Malaysia to DRC. Russia, China, Cuba and DRC, supporters to North Korea remain.

by: Davis K. Thanjan from: New York
July 17, 2013 4:04 PM
In the context of seizure of the North Korean ship with smuggled arms from Cuba, all shipments between Cuba and North Korea should be subjected to search and seizure by the international community of nations to stop illegal barter system between these two countries for mutual supply of illegal arms. The announcement of Cuba that the seized arms are for repair in North Korea does not explain the truth. If that is true, why the arms were not listed in the log of the ship? Why these arms were hidden under sugar? Why the crew resisted inspection and arrest? Why the Captain of the ship tried to commit suicide? What is the assurance that the so called outdated arms will be returned after repair in North Korea? Even outdated arms are lethal. Even sending arms for repair or not, circumvent the arms embargo. Since Cuba do not produce such arms and these arms are Russian made, the pipeline of arms smuggling starts from Russia to North Korea, via Cuba.
In Response

by: Christian B. from: San Jose
July 18, 2013 12:48 AM
These item's have probably been sitting in a basement in Cuba since the 60's and the Cuban president just sold them to NK when they came to visit. I wouldn't be surprised if the Cuban's themselves are the ones who tipped off the Panamanians to the ship's contents, knowing they wouldn't get in trouble for the shipment and they already got their money. If the weapons were ever used, they would be easily tracked back to Cuba, and I'm sure they knew that. If the US didn't already know this was happening, or even orchestrate it, I would want to look into exactly how NK planned on getting paid for these"Repair Services" or paying for these items, and start following the money.
Going forward, ALL ships, trains cargo planes and delivery trucks going into and out of NK by any means (land, air or water) should all be inspected for weapons or anything else they don't need to survive, as soon as they leave that countries territory.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

More Americas News

US, Cuba Teams Discuss Telecommunications Issues

US delegation visited Cuba this week as the two nations continued efforts to restore diplomatic relations broken over 50 years ago
More

Egyptian Court Adjourns Trial of Al Jazeera Journalists to April 22

Two journalists are charged with aiding a terrorist organization, a reference to the Muslim Brotherhood, which Egypt banned following 2013 army takeover
More

Rio Exhibition Dramatizes Olympian Bay Cleanup Task

Display highlights problem of trash in Guanabara Bay, where sailing, windsurfing events are to take place in next Summer Games
More

Chile Says Drought Permanent, Lays Out Water Plan

President Michelle Bachelet says government will invest in desalinization plants and reservoirs to ensure access to potable water
More

Poll: Venezuelan Leader's Popularity Inches Up to 25%

Rise comes after United States declared Venezuela a security threat and ordered sanctions against seven officials
More

High Winds, Drought Feed Chilean Forest Fires

Blazes have ravaged swaths of China Muerta and Nalca Lolco reserves and Conguillio national park, revered for its ancient forests
More