News / Asia

    North Korean Cargo Ship Seizure Under Scrutiny

    North Korean Cargo Ship Seizure Under Scrutinyi
    X
    July 19, 2013 9:08 PM
    Big questions still surround this weeks' discovery in Panama of a North Korean ship carrying weapons parts. As VOA Pentagon correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, the find has now drawn the attention of intelligence analysts.
    Big questions still surround this week's discovery in Panama of a North Korean ship carrying weapons parts.
    Luis Ramirez
    It was a bizarre discovery: Customs officials find containers loaded with Soviet-era weapon parts hidden under bags of sugar on a North Korean-flagged freighter trying to pass through the Panama Canal.
     
    In a state television broadcast, Cuba announced it owns the parts, which Havana says include obsolete anti-aircraft missiles, radar and warplane components that were going to North Korea for repair.
     
    But one big question remains. Why would Cuba bother sending seemingly useless items to North Korea for repair?
     
    "All we know is basically we have a North Korean ship with a lot of raw sugar, obsolete anti-aircraft missiles and radar equipment, and some spare aircraft engines bound for North Korea," said Tim Brown, a Senior Fellow at GlobalSecurity.org.  "And we don't know whether the North Koreans are going to repair it or if it was going to be for sale, barter or what."
     
    Although it could be weeks or months before it is known exactly what the cargo is, Panamanian Security Minister Jose Raul Mulino says has roused the interest of U.S. officials and international agencies.
     
    "The United States has confirmed they will be sending an entire team, and the foreign ministry informed me that a visit of the United Nations experts has been scheduled in Panama for August the 5th to verify the weapons," he said.
     
    Beyond their shared ideological adversity to the United States, Pyongyang and Havana have no history — at least none that is public — of any significant military cooperation.
     
    "You have two ailing Stalinist regimes, the only two that are basically left in the world, and the only ones able to communicate with each other and deal with each other doing what would normally be considered just a nonsensical deal," said Brown.
     
    It is because the case appears to make so little sense that intelligence analysts are working to learn more.
     
    One possible explantion for the shipment that is being evaluated: whether North Korea is building a new relationship halfway around the world with Cuba. North Korea's isolation has been growing as traditional ally China raises pressure on Pyongyang.
     
    "It's still to be determined what the Cubans were trying to get out of this, what the North Koreans were getting out of this," said Brown. "Why they would go to these lengths and risk this to achieve such very, very little benefit? If anything, it shows the desperation of the North Koreans."
     
    U.S. officials have been cautious in their response, saying little about the seizure.
     
    The United States considers Cuba an enemy government, but not an existential threat. The Obama administration has been taking steps to improve relations that have been frozen for more than a half century, and Cuba wants the U.S. economic embargo lifted.
     
    The revelation of the illegal arms shipment and findings of further investigations may determine whether efforts to improve relations will go forward.

    • 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.

    You May Like

    Syrian Torture Victim Recounts Horrors

    'You make them think you have surrendered' says Jalal Nofal, a doctor who was jailed and survived repeated interrogations in Syria

    Mandela’s Millions Paid to Heirs, But Who Gets His Country Home?

    Saga around $3 million estate of country's first democratic president is far from over as Winnie Mandela’s fight for home overshadows payouts

    Guess Which Beach is 'Best in the US'?

    Hawaii’s Hanauma Bay tops an annual "top 10" list compiled by a coastal scientist, also known as Doctor Beach

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
    July 21, 2013 7:49 PM
    As for the aim of this shipment, it is reported in Japan that NK was going to use obsolete weapon parts to fix its own weapons.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese Americans for Trump Going Against National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese Americans for Trump Going Against National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora