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 On the Scene: In Gaza, Darkness Brings Dread and Death

Palestinians fear nighttime raids, many feel abandoned by outside world, VOA's Scott Bobb reports More

African Small Farmers Could Be Key to Ending Food Insecurity

Experts say providing access to microloans, crop insurance, better storage facilities, irrigation, road systems and market information could enable greater production More

University of Michigan Wins Solar Car Race

Squad guided its student-designed solar-powered vehicle to fifth consecutive time victory in eight-day bi-annual American Solar Challenge More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
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 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 ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid