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
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

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year 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.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

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