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

Video China Investigates Powerful Former Security Chief

Analysts say move by President Xi is an effort to win more party support, take step toward economic reforms, removing those who would stand in way of change More

South Africa Land Reforms Still Contentious 20 Years Later

Activists argue that the pace of land reform is slow and biased; legal experts question how some proposed reforms would be implemented More

In Vietnam, Religious Freedoms Violated, UN Finds

Beliefs reportedly prompt heavy surveillance, intimidation and travel restrictions More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelteri
X
Scott Bobb
July 30, 2014 8:16 PM
Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video A Summer Camp for All the World

VIDEO: During workshops and social gatherings, the Global Youth Village summer camp encourages young people to cooperate and embrace their differences, while learning to communicate with people from other countries. VOA's Deborah Block has more.
Video

Video From Cantankerous Warlock to Incorruptible Priest, 'Harry Potter' Actor Embraces Diverse Roles

He’s perhaps best known as Mad Eye Moody, the whimsical wizard in the Harry Potter franchise. But character actor Brendan Gleeson's resume includes dozens of films, and he embraces all the characters he inhabits with equal passion. In an interview with VOA’s Penelope Poulou, Gleeson discussed his new drama "Calvary" and his secret to success.

AppleAndroid