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

TEXT SIZE - +
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

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 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.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid

More Americas News

Jailed American Aims to Leave Cuba 'Dead or Alive'

In Havana after visiting Alan Gross, attorney Scott Gilbert say his client has lost some vision in his right eye, walks with a limp due to hip problems, has lost a tooth and is 50 kilograms lighter than at the time of his arrest
More

Oldest Living Pro Ballplayer Dead at 102

Conrado Marrero's grandson confirmed the death, which came just two days before the centenarian's 103rd birthday
More

Summit to Protect Oceans Opens

Oceans called fundamental to life
More

Actress Lupita Nyong'o is People's 'Most Beautiful' Woman

Oscar winner, 31, lauded for role in '12 Years A Slave' says she 'never dreamed' she would be praised for her looks and land on cover of weekly magazine
More

Violent Protests Erupt Near Rio's Tourist Attractions

The rioting was sparked after word spread that the body of Douglas Rafael da Silva Pereira, a dancer on Brazil's Globo television network, had been discovered
More

Russia Expels Canadian Diplomat

Reports say first secretary's expulsion in Moscow is in retaliation for deportation of Russian military attache from Russian Embassy in Ottawa
More