News / Asia

Weapons Seized on N. Korean Ship 'Violate UN Sanctions'

Panamanian workers stand atop sacks of sugar inside a container of 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 on the coast of Colon City, Panama, July 16, 2013.
The weapons shipment found on board a North Korean intercepted by Panama likely represents a violation of a United Nations arms embargo on Pyongyang, analysts say.
 
The ship was stopped on suspicion of drug smuggling as it attempted to pass through the Panama Canal after leaving Cuba. Instead of drugs, however, authorities found several caches of undeclared weaponry hidden under a shipment of sacks of brown sugar.
 
Cuba released a statement claiming the cargo as its own but downplaying its strategic value. It said the shipment included several missiles, two MiG-21 fighter jets, and other "obsolete" Soviet-era military equipment that it was sending to North Korea for repair. 
 
Pyongyang, meanwhile, described the shipment as "nothing but aging weapons" that it had agreed to overhaul. 
 
But even the transfer, if not the sale, of weapons to North Korea for repair could be a violation of U.N. sanctions, said Ben Habib, a Korea analyst at Australia's Latrobe University. 
 
"I imagine there would still be some kind of quid pro quo involved in repairing these things. This would still constitute a 'trade,' as such," Habib told VOA. "So that would violate the sanctions regime."
 
Current international sanctions against North Korea prohibit the sale, transfer or maintenance of most arms and related material. Small arms and light weapons are exempt from those bans. 
 
This means the type of weapons in the Cuban weapons shipment is clearly not allowed, says Hugh Griffiths, a weapons trafficking expert at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
 
"Most definitely. These aren't small or light weapons," Griffiths said. "And really, small arms and light weapons for import into North Korea are the only lines of military equipment which are explicitly exempted by the United Nations Security Council resolutions." 
 
Griffiths also says it is unlikely the shipment is a disguised sale of weapons to North Korea, as some analysts have suggested. 
 
"The North Koreans have a track record of servicing, upgrading and repairing pretty old Soviet or Chinese military equipment which is still maintained and used by some poorer states," he told VOA. 
 
Griffiths said North Korea would have little reason to go all the way to Cuba to acquire such weapons.
 
"The North Koreans already have a lot of antiquated air defense systems. They may be in the market for more, but they they could buy those systems from elsewhere. They don't have to go to Cuba to buy them."
 
Panama has asked for U.N. experts to help examine the ship and its contents, and a Security Council committee that monitors sanctions on North Korea is expected to take up the case.
 
The U.N. Security Council imposed sanctions in North Korea's three nuclear tests since 2006 and its repeated test flights of ballistic missiles. 
 

You May Like

Turkey: No Ransom Paid for Release of Hostages Held by IS Militants

President Erdogan hails release of hostages as diplomatic success but declines to be drawn on whether their release freed Ankara's hand to take more active stance against insurgents More

Audio Sierra Leone Ends Ebola Lockdown

Health ministry says it has reached 75 percent of its target of visiting 1.5 million homes to locate infected, educate population about virus More

US Pivot to Asia Demands Delicate Balancing Act

As tumult in Middle East distracts Obama administration, efforts to shift American focus eastward appear threatened More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Towni
X
Deborah Block
September 21, 2014 2:12 PM
A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Alibaba Shares Soar in First Day of Trading

China's biggest online retailer hit the market Friday -- with its share price soaring on the New York Stock Exchange. The shares were priced at $68, but trading stalled at the opening, as sellers held onto their shares, waiting for buyers to bid up the price. More on the world's biggest initial public offering from VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid