News / Asia

Pyongyang Demands Panama Return Seized Ship

Panama forensic workers work in a container holding a green missile-shaped object seized from the North Korean flagged ship "Chong Chon Gang" at the Manzanillo Container Terminal in Colon City July 17, 2013.
Panama forensic workers work in a container holding a green missile-shaped object seized from the North Korean flagged ship "Chong Chon Gang" at the Manzanillo Container Terminal in Colon City July 17, 2013.
Daniel Schearf
North Korea is demanding Panama return its ship and release the crew it detained after concealed weapons from Cuba were found on board. Pyongyang and Havana claim the weapons are for repair and return to Cuba but experts are investigating whether the two violated United Nations sanctions against North Korea weapons deals.  
 
North Korea's official Korea Central News Agency (KCNA) accuses Panama of rashly attacking the captain and crew of its ship, the Chongchongang
 
Panamanian authorities say they seized the vessel this week on suspicions it was smuggling narcotics after leaving Havana.  But, when they searched the ship, they found what appeared to be Soviet-era military weapons hidden under hundreds of bags of sugar. 
 
KCNA quoted an unnamed foreign ministry spokesman late Wednesday admitting the ship carried a cargo of what he called "aging weapons."  But the spokesman said it was part of a legitimate contract for overhauling weapons, for return to Cuba, and accused Panamanian investigators of taking issue with the shipment to justify what he called their "violent action."
 
Panama authorities, however, say it was the 35-man North Korean crew that rioted to try and stop investigation of the ship. They say the captain attempted to commit suicide. Authorities have said the crew remains uncooperative with investigators and could face criminal charges.
 
Shin In-kyun, head of the Korea Defense Network, a private research group in Seoul, says Cuba argues the weapons were for repair but, if they are for repair, it did not need to hide the container underneath the cargo and cover it with sugar.  It looks like the weapons were hidden.  In this situation, he says, we can judge that Cuba illegally exported weapons to North Korea, but it is up to the United States and United Nations to provide evidence.
 
United Nations sanctions outlaw any country from trading weapons with North Korea except light arms.
 
Panama has called in U.S., European and U.N. investigators to inspect the seized cargo.
 
Panamanian authorities say regardless of any contract between North Korea and Cuba, the weapons were undeclared and therefore illegal.
 
Cuba's Foreign Ministry issued an earlier, detailed statement admitting the ship carried 240 metric tons of weaponry.  
 
It said the cargo included anti-aircraft missile systems, nine missiles “in parts and spares,” two Mig-21 airplanes and 15 spare plane engines.
 
Defense analyst Shin In-kyun says if investigators conclude North Korea was actually buying weapons from Cuba, stronger action may be called for and not only against Pyongyang.
 
He says the U.N. sanctions are against any country that exports weapons to North Korea.  The United States and other leading countries in Europe support this regulation.  He says if Cuba is found to have exported missile parts to North Korea, then sanctions could also be imposed against Cuba.
 
The U.N. sanctions were imposed on North Korea for its illicit nuclear weapons programs.  In February Pyongyang tested its third, and largest, nuclear device.
 
Shin In-kyun says along with Cuba, North Korea also trades with some countries in the Middle East, such as Syria and Iran for military hardware.  
 
This latest case, he says, will only strengthen the inspection of North Korean ships.

VOA Seoul Bureau Producer Youmi Kim contributed to this report.
 
 

You May Like

India PM Modi's party distances itself from religious conversions

BJP under fire for being slow to rein in hardline affiliate groups allegedly trying to promote a Hindu-dominant agenda by luring Muslims and Christians to convert to Hinduism More

Anti-Whaling Group Found in Contempt of Court

Radical environmentalists who threw acid and smoke bombs at Japanese whalers in the waters off Antarctica continue their campaign to disrupt Japan's annual whale hunt More

UN's Ban Urges End to Discrimination Against Ebola Workers

Ban was speaking in Guinea on the second day of a whistle-stop tour aimed at thanking healthcare workers of the countries at the heart of the epidemic More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Derek from: NYC
July 18, 2013 9:31 AM
The solution is simple. The the ship, crew & cargo of sugar can go ahead. The weapons shall be confiscated. The UN can decide whether Cuba violated int'l law later but the weapons will be destroyed.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid