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

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs