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

    Video Rubio Looks to Surge in New Hampshire

    Republican presidential candidate has moved into second place in several recent surveys and appears to be gaining ground on longtime frontrunner Donald Trump

    UN Calls for Global Ban on Female Genital Mutilation

    Recent UNICEF report finds at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in 30 countries

    UN Pilots New Peace Approach in CAR

    Approach launched in northern town of Kaga Bandoro, where former combatants of mainly Muslim Seleka armed group and Christian and animist anti-Balaka movement are being paid to do community work

    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.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.

    More Americas News

    'Revenant's Inarritu wins top Directors Guild Prize

    Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's win, with only weeks to go before Academy Awards on February 28, race is still as wide open as ever

    Colombia: 3,100 Known Zika Cases in Pregnant Women

    But Santos says in televised address in his country that there's still no evidence definitively linking the virus to microcephaly in newborns

    Pope to OK Use of Indigenous Languages for Mass in Mexico

    Move before trip to the country next week is symbolic gestures in defense of Indian rights

    Ecuador Sacks Military Top Brass Over Questioned Land Deal

    Armed Forces apparently sold 66 lots to Environment Ministry for $48 million, but report from Attorney General's office says they were worth only $7 million

    Video Zika Virus Dubbed Inconsequential Except for Link to Microcephaly

    Virus fairly harmless overall, health expert says, but possible link to thousands of babies born with underdeveloped brains causing alarm worldwide

    Obama Ramps Up Aid to Colombia as Peace Deal With Rebels Nears

    Leaders mark anniversary of joint initiative begun to help end armed conflict, drug trade; Obama calls Colombia a country 'on the brink of peace'