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

Hezbollah Chief Says Does Not Want War But Ready for One

VOA's Jerusalem correspondent reports that with an Israeli election looming and Hezbollah's involvement in Syria, neither side appears interested in a wider conflict More

Multimedia VOA SPECIAL REPORT: Despite Danger, Best US Minds Battle Deadly Virus

Scientists at America's premier biological research center race in military confinement to find effective drugs, speedier tests and a safe vaccine amid the deadliest outbreak of Ebola in history More

Kurdish Poet Battles to Defend Language, Culture

Kawa Nemir's work is an example of what he sees as an irreversible cultural and political assertiveness among Kurds in Turkey 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.
Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unresti
X
Heather Murdock
January 30, 2015 8:00 PM
Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Mobile Infrared Scanners May Help Homeowners Save Energy

Mobile photo scanners have been successfully employed for navigational purposes, such as Google Maps. Now, a group of scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology says the same technology could help homeowners better insulate their houses and save some money. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.

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

All About America

AppleAndroid

More Americas News

Aviation Leaders to Seek Mandate on Safety Standards

Standards for global plane tracking, cooperation on risks of flying over conflict zones will dominate a meeting set for Feb. 2-5 in Montreal
More

Dissident Venezuelan General Resurfaces

Antonio Rivero has resurfaced after nearly a year in hiding, appearing at United Nations in New York
More

US Seeks to Break Up Drug Ring

Alleged drug ring accused of smuggling cocaine and laundering money from Venezuela to the United States
More

Senators Introduce Bill to End Ban on Americans Traveling to Cuba

Some Cuban American lawmakers strongly oppose Obama administration’s sudden shift in US policy towards Cuba, others say it is past time to end embargo
More

At Mexican Hospital, Rescuers Search for Blast Victims

At least 2 people killed and dozens wounded, including 22 children, when tanker truck explodes outside building
More

HRW: Security Measures Erode Human Rights Worldwide

New Human Rights Watch report cites Nigeria, Iraq, Syria, Israel and the United States among nations using security concerns to justify rights violations
More