DPRK weapons shipment seized

UPDATE 2: According to the Los Angeles Times:

In the report, obtained Thursday by The Associated Press, the South African government said the two containers are currently stored in a state-secured warehouse in Durban while its investigation continues. It estimated the value of the conventional arms at 6 million rand (about $770,000)

The shipment’s final destination, according to the bill of lading, was the port of Pointe Noire in the Republic of Congo, the small oil-rich country often overshadowed by its larger neighbor, Congo. The Republic of Congo, whose capital is Brazzaville, has reportedly experienced a wave of recent violence.

The report to the Security Council committee monitoring sanctions against North Korea is entitled “breach of the Security Council resolutions…”

It traced the shipment from the DGE Corporation via the “Machinery Expand Imp Corp (cq),” both established to be in North Korea, to the Chinese port of Dalian where it was put on board the CGM Musca on Oct. 20.

The bill of lading described the contents of the two containers as “spare parts of bulldozer,” according to the report.

At Port Klang, Malaysia, the shipment was transferred to another vessel, the Westerhever, which was chartered by Delmas Shipping, a subsidiary of the French shipping company, CMA-CGM, the report said. Delmas requested that CMA-CGM Shipping Agencies South Africa (Pty) Ltd. represent the Westerhever on its voyage to South Africa.

The captain was instructed to refuel in Durban on Nov. 28-29, but due to fuel shortages in Durban, the Westerhever was ordered to take on fuel in Walvis Bay, the report said.

While en route to Walvis Bay on Nov. 27, the captain “received an email instruction from Delmas to make a U-turn and discharge the two containers in Durban, the report said.

A U.N. diplomat familiar with the report, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly, said the email informed the captain that the ship was carrying suspicious cargo which should be turned over for inspection to South African authorities in Durban.

Martin Baxendale, a spokesman for CMA-CGM, said in Paris that the company was in contact with South African authorities but said “we cannot enter into discussions relating to any details in regard to this matter.”

According to the report, “a large quantity of rice grains in sacks lined the containers and was utilized as protective buffers for the conveyance of the conventional arms.”

UPDATE 1: According to the Wall Street Journal:

According a terse, two-page account delivered by the Pretoria government earlier this month to the U.N. committee overseeing the enforcement of U.N. Security Council sanctions imposed on North Korea, South African authorities in November seized two containers filled with tank parts and other military equipment from North Korea. The report said the containers, which were loaded on a ship in the Chinese port of Dalian and bound for the Republic of the Congo, contained gun sights, tracks and other spare parts for T-54 and T-55 tanks and other war material valued at an estimated $750,000.

The military equipment was concealed in containers lined with sacks of rice, said the confidential South African report, which was reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. Shipping documents identified the cargo as spare parts for a “bulldozer,” according to the report, which said the goods were shipped by a North Korean company.

ORIGINAL POST: According to Reuters (via Yahoo):

South Africa has told a U.N. Security Council committee it intercepted a North Korean weapons shipment bound for Central Africa, which diplomats said was a violation of a U.N. ban on arms sales by Pyongyang.

The seizure took place in November, when South African authorities received information that a ship headed for Congo Republic was carrying containers with suspicious cargo, according to a letter sent by South Africa to the Security Council’s North Korea sanctions committee.

Several Western diplomats described the incident as a “clear-cut violation” of Security Council resolution 1874, which bans all North Korean arms exports and most weapons-related imports in response to its nuclear program.

The letter, parts of which were seen by Reuters on Monday, said a North Korean company was the shipping agent and the cargo was first loaded onto a ship in China, then transferred to a vessel owned by French shipping firm CMA CGM in Malaysia.

Diplomats said the French company alerted authorities to the fact it had suspicious cargo on board and was not believed to have done anything wrong. The South Africans intercepted the vessel and seized the containers, which held tank parts.

The letter, which the committee received last week, said the South Africans discovered “that the contents fell within the definition of conventional arms in that the contents consisted of components of a military tank T-54/T-55.”

The letter said the documentation for the containers described the cargo as “spare parts of bulldozer.” T-54 and T-55 tanks were designed and produced in the Soviet Union in the 1940s and 1950s but were later upgraded and made in other countries.

Neither the French company nor the countries involved had any immediate comment.

Congo Republic, which borders Democratic Republic of Congo, has suffered a wave of violence in the Pool region between the capital Brazzaville and the oil port town of Pointe Noire that has broken a period of calm after a decade of instability.

COMMITTEE TO DECIDE
The diplomats said the committee was planning to send letters to countries involved in the case — such as North Korea, Republic of Congo, Malaysia and France — seeking more information so it can decide whether the North Koreans or any other nations were in breach of U.N. sanctions.

Resolution 1874, approved in June 2009, was passed in response to Pyongyang’s second nuclear test in May 2009 and expanded the punitive measures the Security Council had imposed on North Korea after its first atomic test in October 2006.

Last year’s resolution also authorized countries to inspect suspicious North Korean air, land and sea cargo and to seize any banned goods.

“The latest incident shows that the sanctions are working,” one Western diplomat told Reuters. “But it also shows that we have to be vigilant. The DPRK (North Korea) is still trying to violate the sanctions.”

Last week I mentioned that the UN Security Council was investigating four cases of alleged DPRK sanctions violations–but I only knew what three of the cases were:

Case 1: A North Korean shipment of chemical-safety suits that may have been destined for Syria’s military.

Case 2: Italy’s seizure of two luxury yachts allegedly bound for North Korea

Case 3: Thailand’s interdiction of North Korean arms aboard a plane allegedly bound for Iran

And now we know Case 4: Shipping of contraband to Central Africa.

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