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

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: 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.
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