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.
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

Turkish Law Gives Spy Agency Controversial Powers

Parliament approves legislation to bolster powers of intelligence service, which government claims is necessary to modernize and deal with new threats Turkey faces More

Video Face of American Farmer Changing

Average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population 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.
Face of American Farmer is Changingi
X
Mike Osborne
April 18, 2014
The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid