UN Committee To Probe North Korean Arms Ship Seized By Panama

Panama forensic workers work in a container holding a green missile-shaped object seized from the North Korean flagged ship "Chong Chon Gang" at the Manzanillo Container Terminal in Colon City July 17, 2013. (c) REUTERS/Carlos Jasso
Panama forensic workers work in a container holding a green missile-shaped object seized from the North Korean flagged ship “Chong Chon Gang” at the Manzanillo Container Terminal in Colon City July 17, 2013. (c) REUTERS/Carlos Jasso

reuters logoUNITED NATIONS, July 18 (Reuters) – A U.N. Security Council sanctions committee will examine the case of a North Korean ship that was intercepted by Panama and found to be carrying arms from Cuba, Britain’s U.N. envoy said on Thursday.

Panama stopped the North Korean ship last week and seized its cargo. Authorities discovered missile equipment, MiG fighter jets and other arms aboard that Cuba said were “obsolete” Soviet-era weapons being sent to North Korea for repair.

“Thanks to good work by Panama, (the) U.N. sanctions committee will examine what looks like (an) illegal Cuban arms shipment to DPRK (North Korea),” Britain’s U.N. Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant posted on Twitter.

Lyall Grant’s announcement follows Panama’s request for the 15-nation Security Council to consider whether the shipment constituted a violation of U.N. sanctions.

Panama’s Security Minister, Jose Raul Mulino, held talks with South Korea’s ambassador in Panama on Thursday morning. The ambassador, Cho Byoung-lip, declined to comment after leaving the discussions, saying the investigation was ongoing. Panamanian officials were not yet available to comment.

A U.N. arms embargo on North Korea covers all exports by Pyongyang and most imports, with the exception of small arms and light weapons and related materiel. But in order to export small arms to Pyongyang, states must notify the Security Council’s North Korea sanctions committee in advance.

An eight-member panel of experts appointed by Ban Ki-moon monitors the Security Council sanctions imposed on North Korea.

The experts are mandated to “gather, examine and analyze information from States, relevant United Nations bodies and other interested parties” on allegations of sanctions violations and report back to the Security Council’s sanctions committee.

North Korea is under a wide array of U.N., U.S. and other national sanctions due to repeated nuclear and ballistic missile tests since 2006 in defiance of international demands that it stop.

Cuba said the weapons were being sent back to North Korea for repair and included two anti-aircraft missile batteries, nine disassembled rockets, two MiG-21 fighter jets, and 15 MiG-21 engines, all Soviet-era military weaponry built in the middle of the last century.

Weapons-related services by North Korea such as repair and maintenance are also covered by the U.N. arms embargo.

If the U.N. sanctions on North Korea were to be expanded to include individuals or entities related to the shipment discovered by Panama, that process would likely take at least several months, U.N. diplomats said. (Reporting by Michelle Nichols and Louis Charbonneau; Additional reporting by Lomi Kriel; Editing by Vicki Allen and Jackie Frank)

(c) 2013 Thomson Reuters