Archive for the ‘Iran’ Category

DPRK Wikileaks story index

Monday, November 29th, 2010

Below I am indexing media coverage of Wikileaks stories involving the DPRK:

2011-10-7: Jordanian bank tied to illicit weapons trade.

2011-9-13: As ties between the DPRK and Myanmar continue to grow, it is becoming more difficult for defectors to transit to South Korea.

2011-9-11: The Guangdong Development Bank, a mainland lender partly owned by the U.S. bank Citigroup, had banking ties with a North Korean arms dealer in 2009, according to a cable sent by the U.S. Consulate General in Hong Kong in July 2009, The South China Morning Post reported Saturday, quoting information provided by the Wikileaks.

2011-9-8: Hyundai Group Chairwoman Hyun Jeong-eun said Kim Jong-il believes the 2004 train station explosion in Ryongchon assassination attempt.

2011-9-6: U.S. prepared to intercept N. Korean missile: cable

2011-9-5: North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il expressed distrust of his country’s major economic prop China during a 2009 meeting with a visiting South Korean businesswoman, according to a US diplomatic cable.

2011-9-5: Myanmar, North Korea traded rice for arms: US cable

2011-9-3: Sudan negotiating purchase of missiles from North Korea

2011-9-3: US State Department urged China not to sell steel to the DPRK.

2011-8-3: Cambodian government worked with US and South Korea to quietly process North Korean defectors

2011-6-1: US tried to get Canada to finance oil donations to DPRK.

2011-4-11: China and US held DPRK intelligence talks.

2011-1-18: Did Iran pay the DPRK through a South Kroean branch?  The bank says no.

2011-1-6: U.S. Ambassador Feels Heat from WikiLeaks

2011-1-5: Chinese criticize DPRK currency reform.

2011-1-4: Kim Jong-il told a visiting South Korean businesswoman in 2009 that he had ordered the removal of a missile launch scene fromthe Ariarang Mass games because “Americans did not like it.”

2011-1-4: Former Chinese ambassador to Seoul, said today’s North Korea was similar to China during the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s and 70s and dealing with officials there required that he “mentally reset his personal clock by thirty years.”

2010-12-19: WikiLeaks cable: Winston Peters condemns N Korea missile tests

2010-12-9: DPRK-Myanmar nuclear cooperation: here, here, and here.

2010-12-11: DPRK-US family reunions are extortion (Guardian)

2010-12-5: Nothing new in NK leaks (Andrei Lankov)

2010-12-3: Top-Level Defectors from N.Korea Identified (Choson Ilbo)

2010-12-3: N.Korea ‘Fattens Up’ People for Family Reunions (Choson Ilbo)

2010-12-2: North Korean diplomat: Six-party talks are dead (Foreign Policy)

2010-12-2: North Korean’s Earning $1 Per Month!

2010-12-1: WikiLeaks: Mongolia passed North Korea message to U.S. (CNN)  Brookings also published information on the Mongolia-DPRK relationship.

2010-12-1: Singapore disapproves (Straits Times)

2010-12-1: China Blocks Wikileaks (Sky News)

2010-11-30: Cheong Wa Dae denies reports of considering N. Korean regime change (Yonhap)

2010-11-30: What WikiLeaks Cables Reveal About North Korea (The Atlantic)

2010-11-29: North Korea Keeps the World Guessing (New York Times)

2010-11-28: Is there an Iran-NK missile link?  Russia says no. Experts question the idea.

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DPRK unveils new missiles in parade

Sunday, October 10th, 2010

UPDATE 3: NKnews.org offers a description of both missiles.

UPDATE 2 (DPRK-Iran cooperation): Arms Control Wonk has more on DPRK-Iran cooperation.  The picture below would probably make Ruhollah Khomeini spin in his grave:

UPDATE  1 (Nodong Missile): Arms Control Wonk has more on a second Nodong missile that has some Iranian influences.

Aviation Week also offers a good summary:

North Korea’s weaponry is showing design characteristics associated with the Shahab 3, Iran’s most advanced missile. Such evidence is leading some international analysts to the conclusion that the ballistic missile development ties between the two countries are active and producing improvements in the arsenals of both.

While it would seem doubtful that complete missiles or missile sections are being shipped — given the close scrutiny by the West of North Korea shipping — components and engineering data could move relatively easily by air and diplomatic pouch.

For years, Iran has been the junior partner in the relationship and used the conduit to acquire No-dong and other missile technologies to build its own systems. Now, Israeli officials have noted the first public emergence in North Korea of the BM-25 Musudan, a weapon they believe has already been supplied to Iran.

It is believed to the first time the road-mobile, liquid-fueled, intermediate-range ballistic missile has been shown to anyone outside the North Korean military. The public unveiling took place Oct. 10 during a military parade attended by the country’s leader, Kim Jong-il, and his son and apparent leader-designate, Kim Jong-un.

The BM-25 is a derivative of the Russian-designed, SS-N-6 submarine-launched ballistic missile, although it has been increased in length to add range. North Korea showed several of the missile and wheeled launchers during the parade, although the operational status remains uncertain owing to a lack of flight trials detected by outside observers.

The parade also showcased a No-dong ballistic missile with a tri-conic nosecone. That configuration is typically associated with Iran’s Shahab-3, causing some analysts to suggest technical information gleaned by Tehran in flight trials is being fed to Pyongyang. Such a move would suggest Iran has made considerable progress in developing its indigenous missile engineering expertise.

The latest Iranian ballistic missile developments indicate the missiles “are much more sophisticated and reliable than the [early] Scud designs,” says Arieh Herzog, director of the Israel Missile Defense Organization. “The inertial navigation systems are better and improved guidance in the final phase makes some of them accurate to without about 100 meters.”

The migration of the BM-25 to Iran has major security implications for Europe, since it would give Tehran the ability to strike targets in southern Europe. For Israel, the introduction of the BM-25 would have relatively modest impact on its strategic calculation, since Iran already has the ability to strike Israeli cities with ballistic missiles, but it would allow Iran to disperse its launchers over a much larger area in the eastern part of the country.

ORIGINAL POST (Musudan Missile): Although Kim Jong-un stole the headlines at at the military parade, the North Korean military also reportedly paraded several new missiles.  According to the AP:

Japanese public broadcaster NHK reported Sunday that the parade included three never-before-shown types of missiles and launching devices.

One was thought to be a new “Musudan” intermediate-range ballistic missile with a long, narrow head, similar to a ball-point pen, NHK said. It has a range of 3,000-to-5,000 kilometers (1,860-to-3,100 miles) and would be capable of hitting Japan and Guam, NHK said.

South Korea’s Defense Ministry said it could not immediately comment on the report. Call to South Korea’s top spy agency seeking comment went unanswered on Sunday.

Arms Control Wonk has much more.

The Choson Ilbo follows up.

Here are lots of great pictures from a Chinese site.

NTI Global Security follows up:

North Korea was reported to have unveiled three previously unseen ballistic missiles and launching apparatus during a major armed forces parade Sunday, according to the Associated Press (see GSN, March 17).

One new missile was believed to be a Musudan intermediate-range ballistic missile, which can travel 1,860 miles to 3,100 miles and could reach Guam and Japan, according to Japanese television channel NHK.

Missiles were prominently displayed at the parade with the words “Defeat the U.S. Military. U.S. soldiers are the Korean People’s Army’s enemy” written on them.

“If the U.S. imperialists and their followers infringe on our sovereignty and dignity even slightly, we will blow up the stronghold of their aggression with a merciless and righteous retaliatory strike by mobilizing all physical means, including self-defensive nuclear deterrent force,” North Korean army General Staff chief Ri Yong Ho said at the parade.

South Korean defense and intelligence officials did not offer comments on the report (Jean Lee, Associated Press/Google News, Oct. 10).

The Musudan is not known to have yet been launched in a test flight, proliferation analyst Joshua Pollack said on the website Arms Control Wonk. He cited the weapon’s flight range at roughly 1,550 miles to 1,860 miles. The missile is said to be based on the Soviet submarine-launched R-27, which is notably shorter in length than the Musudan.

The North Korean missile was initially unveiled in a 2007 armed forces parade; however, that event was closed to international media, the Chosun Ilbo reported. The South Korean newspaper reported the Musudan had a range of about 1,860 to 2,490 miles.

Evidently, some 12 Musudan missiles are fielded at missile installations in the North Hamgyong and South Pyongan provinces. The system can reportedly travel further than any other weapon in the North’s arsenal, including the Rodong missile with an 810-mile range, the newspaper reported.

“We’re looking at a new missile,” Pollack stated. “The lack of a known testing record prior to deployment raises all sorts of questions. Was it tested in another country, for example?” (Joshua Pollack, Arms Control Wonk I, Oct. 10).

The outside world also saw for the first time Sunday a new version of the medium-range Nodong ballistic missile, which was outfitted with what appeared to be a “separating re-entry vehicle,” Pollack noted.

“The question naturally arises: how long have the North Koreans had weapons of this type?” he wrote.

South Korean and U.S. news organizations initially began reporting on the Musudan missile in 2003, “so it’s certainly possible for Pyongyang to sit on these developments for years, if they wish,” he wrote.

The targeting precision of North Korean theater-range missiles such as the Nodong has been reported to have increased since July 2006 missile tests. The separating re-entry vehicle on the Nodong could explain some of that improved accuracy, Pollack stated.

Pollack indicated that details remain unclear regarding the third weapons system cited in the AP article (Joshua Pollack, Arms Control Wonk II, Oct. 10).

Read the full AP story here:
NKorea’s Kim, heir apparent son at lavish parade
Associate Press
10/9/2010

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Collective farm diplomacy

Monday, October 4th, 2010

For the same reasons that President Obama has a tendency to take visiting dignitaries to my favorite hamburger restaurant in Arlington, VA, the North Koreans have designated “friendship farms” for countries the North Koreans enjoy or expect to enjoy cozy relations.  Below I have identified a few for you to check out on Google Earth.

DPRK-Iran Friendship Ripsok Cooperative Farm

 

iran-friendship-farm.JPG

Coordinates: 39°28’34.69″N, 125°29’48.92″E
This farm has been mentioned in this capacity in KCNA four times: here, here, here, and here.
Date first mentioned: May 17, 2007

DPRK-Russia Friendship Kochang Cooperative Farm

 

russia-friendship-farm.JPG

Coordinates: 38°58’3.82″N, 125°36’4.67″E
It has been mentioned in KCNA at least 26 times.  See here.
Date first mentioned:  June 23, 1999

DPRK-China Friendship Thaekam Cooperative Farm

 

china-friendship-farm.JPG

Coordinates: 39°15’4.41″N, 125°41’53.06″E
This farm has been mentioned at least 29 times in KCNA.  See here.
Date first mentioned: June 1, 1997

I have also located friendship farms for: Laos, Poland, Cuba, Bulgaria, Vietnam, Malaysia,  Indonesia, Germany, Palestine, Cambodia, Mongolia, India, Syria, Nigeria, Libya, Egypt, New Zealand, Yugoslavia, and Pakistan.

The United States does not yet have a friendship farm in the DPRK, but maybe someday it will be Osan-ri in Sunan-kuyok, Pyongyang. This is where the Fuller Center plans to launch a housing project. Their planned location and site plans are posted below.

Jimmy Carter, who founded Habitat for Humanity, has recently endorsed this project. (UPDATE: more here and here)

Thanks again to Google Earth and GeoEye.

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Leaked US military docs accuse NK of proliferation to al-Quaeda

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

UPDATE (8/9/2010): The Washington Post hosted a discussion on this topic which was interesting:

Michael Scheuer, a former CIA analyst who once ran the agency’s bin Laden unit, doubts that the Taliban has bought North Korean’s version of the Stinger.

It doesn’t need them, he says.

“They have the weapons from non-North Korean sources, but why bother using them?” he said. “They are beating the U.S. and NATO with a smaller array of weapons than they needed to drive out 40th [Soviet Red] Army, so why use the stockpiled weapons if we are going to beat ourselves?”

Even if the Taliban has them, says Gary Berntsen, a former CIA officer in Afghanistan, the rebels would risk their lives every time they turned them on.

Instead, he said, “They have, and try to use, dishkas,” Russian heavy anti-aircraft machine guns “that can knock down a helicopter with troops.”

As soon as a spy reports the rebels dragging one forward for an attack, he said, NATO forces’ electronic ears and eyes start looking for it.

“It’s a dangerous game of cat and mouse,” said Bertnsen, who has returned to Afghanistan as a military adviser in recent years but is now the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in New York.

Of course, the report of the North Korea visit by Hekmatyar and bin Laden aide Amin al-Haq (or ul-Haq) might well have been false — or even fabricated to implicate Pyongyang, some sources said.

As one former senior CIA officer put it, “You are right to distrust information on this topic, since every serious intelligence organization in the world, and certainly our own, is probably engaged in disinformation as part of a general psy-ops program.”

Hekmetyar, he pointed out, could “get in touch with the North Koreans without a traceable trip to Pyongyang, like by sending an emissary to [their] embassy in Islamabad or some other Third World country nearby, including Iran.”

When the first reports of the helicopter shoot-down arrived in 2007, word spread in intelligence circles that the culprit was an Iranian-supplied weapon, one person familiar with the incident recalled. It was a time when hardline elements in the Bush administration were pushing for regime change in Iran, he noted.

A military intelligence officer also theorized the report was fabricated, but by different parties, for a different reason.

“My thoughts are that perhaps the intelligence report might have been provided by a HUMINT [human intelligence] source under the hostile control of either Iran or Pakistan, to deliberately mislead us and turn attention away from them as the providers of such weapon systems and blame the North Koreans.”

The silence of the Taliban missiles, in short, remains a mystery.

Except, perhaps, to U.S. military officials in Kabul, who sound grateful.

“There’s been no recent activity suggesting that these weapons are a threat,” an unidentified U.S. official told CNN, “as attested by the volume of our daily air activity and the causes of aircraft incidents, which we report.”

ORIGINAL POST (6/27/2010): According to the Washington Post:

A powerful Afghan insurgent leader and a man identified as Osama Bin Laden’s financial adviser purchased ground-to-air missiles from North Korea in 2005, according to an uncorroborated U.S. intelligence report released by Wikileaks on Sunday.

“On 19 November 2005, Hezb-Islami party leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar [sic] and Dr. Amin [no last name], Osama Bin Ladin’s financial advisor, both flew to North Korea departing from Iran,” the undated report said.

“While in North Korea, the two confirmed a deal with the North Korean government for remote controlled rockets for use against American and coalition aircraft,” said the report, whose origin could not be determined from the version published on the Wikileaks site.

Wikileaks had previously said it planned to strip any markings from the documents that might help U.S. law enforcement agencies identify who leaked them.

The intelligence report said, “The shipment of said weapons is expected shortly after the New Year,” meaning the beginning of 2006.

The terms of the deal were not reported.

“The two men stayed in North Korea for two weeks, returning to Helmand, Afghanistan around Dec. 3,” the report said. Hekmatyar proceeded to eastern Afghanistan.

Then, about 18 months later, according a previously undisclosed after-action military report obtained by Wikileaks, a CH-47 Chinook helicopter was downed by a missile “shortly after crossing over the Helmand River.”

“The impact of the missile projected the aft end of the aircraft up as it burst into flames followed immediately by a nose dive into the crash site with no survivors,” the May 30, 2007 report added.

“Based on description of launch, size of round, and impact force of the projectile,” the report said, “it is assessed to be bigger then an RPG [rocket propelled grenade] and possibly a Surface-to-Air Missile.”

It added, “Witness statements from (troops) suggest (it) was struck by a MANPAD and is consistent with MANPAD event described by Arrow 25.”

The name of the alleged Bin Laden financial adviser who went to North Korea, “Dr. Amin,” could not immediately be found in media reports, scholarly papers or books. If such a man exists, he would be the latest of several individuals identified as filling that role over the years.

Nor could any previous reports linking North Korea to the Afghan insurgency be immediately located.

If true, it illustrates the length to which North Korea will go to kick the United States — and generate cash for its sanctions-strapped economy, experts said.

“If they are a paying customer, that would help the North Korean cash flow,” said one of them, Terence J. Roehrig, a professor of national security decision-making at the Naval War College who has written about North Korea. “Arms sales are an important source of income for the regime.”

The United States and and South Korea are conducting joint naval maneuvers in a show of force to North Korea. Pyongyang has vowed to respond with “a sacred war and a powerful nuclear deterrence.”

Read the full story here:
Wikileaks documents: N. Korea sold missiles to al-Qaeda, Taliban
Washington Post
Jeff Stein
7/26/2010

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North Korea supplied submarines to Iran

Monday, June 14th, 2010

According to the Asahi Shimbun:

Seoul and Washington have confirmed that North Korea supplied Iran with submarines several years ago, showing that military exchanges between the two countries have reached a higher level, military sources said.

The exports were 130-ton Yono-class midget submarines, the same model as the one believed to have torpedoed the South Korean warship Cheonan near the disputed western sea border with North Korea, killing 46 sailors on March 26.

Iran and North Korea had initially cooperated in ballistic missile technology. They have expanded this cooperation to warships and uranium-enrichment technology in recent years, the sources said.

The U.S. government recently provided South Korea with several photos of a Yono-class submarine taken at an Iranian port around 2007, according to the sources.

The photos were given for the investigation into the sinking of the Cheonan.

One of the photos showed a crane moving a submarine and people believed to be Iranian officials, according to the sources.

South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense late last month said a Yono-class submarine was built in a shipyard for special vessels in Pyongyang in June 2004.

The submarine was likely built primarily for export, according to the sources.

Different sources said the South Korean and U.S. governments also confirmed around 2008 that Iran possessed a 120-ton Ghadir-class submarine, which looks almost identical to the Yono-class sub.

The Iranian submarine could have been a remodeled North Korean submarine or it may have been built based on North Korea’s design, according to the sources.

It has the potential to fire the CHT-02D torpedo, parts of which were found in the wreckage of the Cheonan, the sources said.

Iran imported the submarines likely for strategic purposes in the Straits of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf, according to one of the sources.

North Korea’s military cooperation with Iran moved into high gear after Pyongyang began supplying a number of advanced short-range Scud-B missiles around 1987.

Funds from Iran helped North Korea develop the Nodong medium-range missiles. The Nodong technology was used to develop Iran’s Shahab missiles.

Iran has also provided North Korea with uranium-enrichment technology, according to the sources.

Planeman has more

Daily NK has more.

Read the full story here:
North Korea supplied submarines to Iran
The Asahi Shimbun
Yoshihiro Makino
6/11/2010

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Thai authorities halt shipment of DPRK-made weapons

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

UPDATE 13:  According to the Times of London, the weapons were headed for Hamas and Hezbollah:

An aircraft full of weapons seized in Bangkok last year was heading from North Korea to Hezbollah, the Lebanese militia, and Hamas, the Palestinian group, Avigdor Lieberman, the Israeli Foreign Minister, said yesterday.

The Thai authorities said that the aircraft was carrying 35 tonnes of weapons, including rockets and rocket-propelled grenades. The Thai Government informed the UN that the haul had been bound for Iran, which is believed to ship weapons to its ally Syria, which distributes them to Hezbollah or Hamas.

North Korea had the “intention to smuggle these weapons to Hamas and to Hezbollah”, Mr Lieberman said in Japan, where he was on an official visit. “This co-operation between North Korea and Syria [does not] improve the economic situation in their countries,” he added.

UPDATE 12: Thailand to release pilots.  According to the AP (via the Washington Post):

Thai prosecutors dropped charges against the five-man crew of an aircraft accused of smuggling weapons from North Korea, saying Thursday the men would be deported to preserve good relations with their home countries.

The Attorney General’s Office said the decision was made after the governments of Belarus and Kazakhstan contacted the Thai Foreign Ministry and requested the crew’s release to face prosecution at home.

“To charge them in Thailand could effect the good relationship between the countries,” said Thanaphit Mollaphruek, a spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office. “We have decided to drop all the charges and deport them to their home countries.”

“To charge them in this case would not be a benefit to Thailand,” he added.

The crew – four Kazakhs and a Belarusian – were expected to be released later in the day, said their lawyer Somsak Saithong.

Thailand’s Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya indicated earlier this month the men would be released, telling reporters in Geneva the government had “suggested to the office of the attorney general to release them because the U.N. resolution does not oblige Thailand to … bring up charges on the pilots and the crew.”

Thursday’s decision was likely to spark international criticism. The weapons’ ultimate destination remains a mystery, though Thailand has said the plane’s final destination appears to have been Iran. Experts have also voiced concerns that authorities in the former Soviet republics have turned a blind eye to illicit activities of air freight companies that use Soviet-era planes to fly anything anywhere for a price.

A Thai government report to the U.N. Security Council, leaked to reporters in late January said the aircraft was bound for Tehran’s Mahrabad Airport.

But Thai government spokesman Panitan Wattanayarkorn said subsequently that “to say that the weapons are going to Iran, that might be inexact.”

“The report only says where the plane was going to according to its flight plan, but it doesn’t say where the weapons were going to,” he said. “It’s still under investigation, and the suspects are under our legal system.”

Investigations by The Associated Press in several countries showed the flight was facilitated by a web of holding companies and fake addresses from New Zealand to Barcelona designed to disguise the movement of the weapons.

Read previous posts on this topic below:
(more…)

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UN panel claims DPRK evading sanctions

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

The UN panel responsible for implementing UNSC resolutions pertaining to the DPRK has written a report (which is not yet publicly available) claiming that the DPRK continues to evade UN sanctions. According to two different Bloomberg stories :

“The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has established a highly sophisticated international network for the acquisition, marketing and sale of arms and military equipment,” said the report by a Security Council panel established in June to assess the effectiveness of UN sanctions.

The report said arms sales banned by the UN “have increasingly become one of the country’s principal sources for obtaining foreign exchange.” North Korea has used “reputable shipping entities, misdescription of goods and multiple transfers” to hide arms smuggling, according to the report, which has been circulated within the Security Council and not yet publicly released.

North Korean companies and banks that have been barred from foreign transactions are circumventing the prohibition through subsidiaries, according to “indications” from some member governments, the report said. The Korea Mining Development Trading Corp., cited in April for violations of UN sanctions, “continues to operate through its subsidiary companies,” according to the report.

The Kwangson Banking Corp. and Amroggang Development Bank substitute for or act on behalf of Tanchon Commercial Bank and the Korea Hyoksin Trading Corp., the UN panel said authorities in unspecified countries have determined. The U.S. earlier this year froze the assets of the Kwangson and Amroggang banks.

The UN panel said North Korea is believed to have exported arms to countries in Africa, Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Latin America. Only a “very small percentage” of North Korea’s illegal arms trade has been reported or discovered, the report said.

An example of attempted trade in contraband was reported in August by the United Arab Emirates, which seized a ship carrying North Korean-manufactured munitions, detonators, explosives and rocket-propelled grenades bound for Iran.

According to Reuters:

The Security Council imposed the sanctions, including arms embargoes, asset freezes and travel bans, in resolutions in 2006 and 2009, in response to North Korean nuclear tests and ballistic missile launches. This year for the first time, it listed eight entities and five people who were being targeted.

A report obtained by Reuters on Wednesday was the first to be written by an expert panel set up by the Security Council in May to vet implementation of the sanctions. It is due to be discussed in closed-door council consultations on Thursday.

The six experts said there were several different techniques employed by the isolated communist state to conceal its involvement.

“These include falsification of manifests, fallacious labeling and description of cargo, the use of multiple layers of intermediaries, ‘shell’ companies and financial institutions to hide the true originators and recipients,” the report said.

“In many cases overseas accounts maintained for or on behalf of the DPRK are likely being used for this purpose, making it difficult to trace such transactions, or to relate them to the precise cargo they are intended to cover.”

The experts said North Korea likely also used correspondent accounts in foreign banks, informal transfer mechanisms, cash couriers “and other well known techniques that can be used for money laundering or other surreptitious transactions.”

On illicit arms shipments, the report raised the case of the seizure of a “substantial cargo” of weapons from North Korea. It was apparently referring to arms seized in August by the United Arab Emirates from an Australian-owned ship.

The report also said the North continued to import luxury goods intended for its leadership, despite a U.N. ban. It noted that in July, Italy blocked the sale of two yachts that police said were destined for North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.

The panel, which began work just two months ago, said it would work on recommendations to the Security Council for further firms and individuals to be put on the sanctions list as well as goods whose import by North Korea should be banned.

It also promised more exact definitions of small arms — the only kind of arms Pyongyang can import under existing sanctions — as well as of luxury goods.

Marcus Noland has cleverly named the strategy of tracking down North Korean military financiers and arms dealers “Wac-a-mole“.

Read the full stories below:
North Korean Global Arms Smuggling Evades Ban, UN Panel Says
Bloomberg
Bill Varner
11/18/2009

North Korea Arms Trade Funds Nuclear-Bomb Work, UN Panel Says
Bloomberg
Bill Varner
11/19/2009

North Korea maneuvers to evade U.N. sanctions: experts
Reuters
11/18/2009

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UAE Seizes North Korean Weapons Shipment to Iran

Thursday, September 10th, 2009

UPDATE: According to Yonhap, Chinese and Australian ships were shipping the arms:

North Korean cargo carrying arms exports to Iran left a western port five days after Pyongyang’s nuclear test in May and was transferred aboard Chinese and Australian freighters before being seized by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in July, according to an Italian company that handled the delivery.

Mario Carniglia, head of the international freight-forwarding firm Otim, said the containers, reportedly loaded with rocket launchers, detonators, and munitions, were shipped via the Chinese cities of Dalian and Shanghai and were transferred to an Australian vessel just after the U.N. Security Council adopted Resolution 1874 which bans the North from engaging in arms trade.

“(The containers) left the Nampo Port on May 30,” he said in a recent interview with Yonhap News Agency in Rome on Wednesday. A North Korean ship carrying the 10 containers arrived in Dalian two days later and a Chinese cargo ship moved them to Shanghai on June 13, he said.

“The containers were placed on (the Australian freighter) ANL-Australia in Shanghai,” he said, flipping through related documents.

The cargo was on its scheduled course until the UAE intercepted the ANL-Australia on July 22. The U.S. Navy had been focusing on trailing another North Korean vessel, the Kangnam 1, which appeared to be headed to Myanmar also carrying weapons exports.

The seizure was the first made under Resolution 1874 that calls upon all states to inspect cargo to and from North Korea if they have “information that provides reasonable grounds to believe the cargo contains” illicit weapons.

The Australian government said earlier, based on its own probe, that there were rocket-propelled grenades and other weapons in the seized containers, though Carniglia said his firm did not know the contents of the cargo.

He said North Korea provided documents identifying the content as “Oil Pumping Equipment.”

“We couldn’t see the contents as the containers were sealed when shipped from Nampo,” he said in the interview conducted in Italian. He refused to identify the exporter in North Korea, citing business ethics.

“All we were responsible for was handling the shipping from China to Iran,” Carniglia said.

He added that North Korea has not filed a complaint or asked for the return of the cargo, held at the UAE now for more than 50 days.

The UAE is reportedly in consultation with the U.N. sanctions committee on how to handle the seized shipment.

In a related move, the U.N. committee demanded an explanation from North Korea last month for the apparent arms export attempt.

The head of the North’s mission to the U.N., Sin Son-ho, sent a reply letter reiterating his country’s position that it is not bound by any U.N. resolution.

Sin also said that North Korea’s experimental uranium enrichment program is in a “completion phase,” claiming the country has made advancements in mastering an alternative route to producing nuclear weapons apart from its plutonium-based program.

ORIGINAL POST: According to Bloomberg:

The United Arab Emirates has seized a ship carrying North Korean-manufactured munitions, detonators, explosives and rocket-propelled grenades bound for Iran in violation of United Nations sanctions, diplomats said.

The UAE two weeks ago notified the UN Security Council of the seizure, according to the diplomats, who spoke on condition they aren’t named because the communication hasn’t been made public. They said the ship, owned by an Australian subsidiary of a French company and sailing under a Bahamian flag, was carrying 10 containers of arms disguised as oil equipment.

The council committee that monitors enforcement of UN sanctions against North Korea wrote letters to Iran and the government in Pyongyang asking for explanations of the violation, and one to the UAE expressing appreciation for the cooperation, the envoys said. No response has been received and the UAE has unloaded the cargo, they said.

he Security Council voted on June 12 to adopt a resolution that punishes North Korea for its recent nuclear-bomb test and missile launches through cargo inspections and enforcement of restrictions on financial transactions. The measure calls for the interdiction at seaports, airports or in international waters of any cargo suspected of containing arms or nuclear or missile-related materials going to or from North Korea.

According to the Wall Street Journal:

According to the Security Council diplomat, the weapons were carried on an Australian vessel, the ANL-Australia, which was flying under a Bahamian flag. According to an Aug. 14 letter sent to the U.N. sanctions committee, the exporting company was an Italian shipper, Otim, which exported the items from its Shanghai office.

“The cargo manifest said the shipment contained oil-boring machines, but then you opened it up and there were these items,” the diplomat said. ANL and Otim officials couldn’t immediately be reached to comment.

A spokeswoman for the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said the Australian government is aware of the incident and is investigating to determine whether any Australian laws may have been broken.

The seizure could also raise fresh questions about North Korea’s intentions. After taking an aggressive stance against the West earlier this year, Pyongyang appears to have softened its rhetoric, releasing two captive American journalists and sending a delegation to meet with South Korea’s president.

Read more here:
UAE Seizes North Korean Weapons Shipment to Iran
Bloomberg
Bill Varner
8/28/2009

Cargo of North Korea Matériel Is Seized en Route to Iran
Wall Street Journal
Peter Spiegel and Chip Cummins
8/29/2009

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UN, US, ROK, sanction DPRK arms companies–and partners

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

On January 21, the day after the Obama administration took office, the White House approved certain trade sanctions–initiated by the Bush administration–to be printed in the Federal Register.  These sanctions targeted specific Chinese, Iranian, and North Korean companies that the US believes were/are violating arms export regulations governing missile technology and other proliferation activities.  [Read more, including Federal Register text, here]

After North Korea conducted a long-range missile test in April, the US pushed the UN Security Council to adopt a presidential statement which blacklists several additional North Korean firms. [Read more here].

After North Korea conducted a second nuclear test, in violation of UNSC resolution, the UNSC adopted a resolution which tightened sanctions on the DPRK. [Read more here]

In June, the South Korean government imposed sanctions on these DPRK companies for the first time [Read more here]

The US followed up the UNSC resolution by announcing an inter-agency team that will focus exclusively on enforcing DPRK sanctions [Read more here

Today, the US Treasury Department announced it was targeting Hong Kong Electronics (Kish Island, Iran) [from where a former FBI agent is still missing] for supporting the balcklisted North Korean organizations.  According to Market Watch:

The Treasury Department said Tuesday that it has targeted another player in North Korea’s missile proliferation network. The agency designated Hong Kong Electronics, located in Kish Island, Iran, for providing support to North Korea’s Tanchon Commercial Bank and Korea Mining Development Trading Corp. Those two firms have been targeted by the U.S. and the United Nations as part of North Korea’s nuclear proliferation network. “Today’s action is a part of our overall effort to prevent North Korea from misusing the international financial system to advance its nuclear and missile programs and to sell dangerous technology around the world,” said Stuart Levy, Treasury under-secretary for terrorism.

What does this mean? It means that any bank accounts or other financial assets found in the United States belonging to the company must be frozen. Americans also are forbidden from doing business with the firm. This probably does not amount to much economically, but is probably intended to discourage banks outside of the US from doing business with these firms.

UPDATE 1: It looks like the State Departmet is also going after a North Korean company believe to be involved in weapons proliferation today.  According to a statement by the Treasury Department:

The U.S. Department of the Treasury today targeted North Korea’s missile proliferation network by designating Hong Kong Electronics under Executive Order 13382.  E.O. 13382 freezes the assets of designated proliferators of weapons of mass destruction and their supporters and prohibits U.S. persons from engaging in any transactions with them, thereby isolating them from the U.S. financial and commercial systems.  Hong Kong Electronics, located in Kish Island, Iran, has been designated for providing support to North Korea’s Tanchon Commercial Bank (Tanchon) and Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation (KOMID).

Tanchon and KOMID have also been designated by the United States under E.O. 13382 and the UN Security Council under Resolution 1718. The Department of State also today targeted North Korea’s nuclear proliferation network by designating Namchongang Trading Corporation (NCG), a North Korean nuclear-related company in Pyongyang, under E.O. 13382. 

“North Korea uses front companies like Hong Kong Electronics and a range of other deceptive practices to obscure the true nature of its financial dealings, making it nearly impossible for responsible banks and governments to distinguish legitimate from illegitimate North Korean transactions,” said Stuart Levey, Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence. “Today’s action is a part of our overall effort to prevent North Korea from misusing the international financial system to advance its nuclear and missile programs and to sell dangerous technology around the world.”

Since 2007, Hong Kong Electronics has transferred millions of dollars of proliferation- related funds on behalf of Tanchon and KOMID. Hong Kong Electronics has also facilitated the movement of money from Iran to North Korea on behalf of KOMID. Tanchon, a commercial bank based in Pyongyang, North Korea, is the financial arm for KOMID – North Korea’s premier arms dealer and main exporter of goods and equipment related to ballistic missiles and conventional weapons.

Tanchon plays a key role in financing the sales of ballistic missiles for KOMID. Tanchon has also been involved in financing ballistic missile sales from KOMID to Iran’s Shahid Hemmat Industrial Group (SHIG), which is the Iranian organization responsible for developing liquid-fueled missiles. SHIG has been designated under E.O. 13382 and sanctioned by the United Nations under UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1737. Since 2005, Tanchon has maintained an active relationship with various branches of Iran’s Bank Sepah, an entity designated under E.O. 13382 and sanctioned by the United Nations under UNSCR 1747, for providing financial services to Iran’s missile program. The U.S. has reason to believe that the Tanchon-Bank Sepah relationship has been used for North Korea-Iran proliferation-related transactions.

Here is the press release by the State Department:

The U.S. Department of State today targeted North Korea’s nuclear proliferation network by designating Namchongang Trading Corporation (NCG) under Executive Order 13382. E.O. 13382 is an authority aimed at freezing the assets of proliferators of weapons of mass destruction and their supporters, and at isolating them from the U.S. financial and commercial systems. Entities designated under E.O. 13382 are prohibited from engaging in all transactions with any U.S. person and are subject to a U.S. asset freeze.

NCG is a North Korean nuclear-related company in Pyongyang. It has been involved in the purchase of aluminum tubes and other equipment specifically suitable for a uranium enrichment program since the late 1990s.

The Department of the Treasury also today designated Hong Kong Electronics, located in Kish Island, Iran, for providing support to North Korea’s Tanchon Commercial Bank (Tanchon) and Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation (KOMID). Tanchon and KOMID were designated by the United States under E.O. 13382 on June 28, 2005 and the UN Security Council under Resolution 1718 on April 24, 2009.

North Korea’s April 5, 2009 launch of a Taepo Dong-2 (TD-2) missile and May 25, 2009 nuclear test demonstrate a need for continued vigilance with respect to North Korea’s activities of proliferation concern. The designations add to continuing U.S. efforts to prevent North Korean entities of proliferation concern from accessing financial and commercial markets that could aid the regime’s efforts to develop nuclear weapons and the missiles capable of delivering them.

McClatchy has more here.

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Iran, North Korea to sign economic pact

Tuesday, August 7th, 2007

Islamic Republic News Agency
8/7/2007

Iran-North Korea economic relations will enter a new era once a bilateral cooperation document is signed by commerce ministers of the two country.

According to public department of Iran’s Ministry of Commerce, in the document which is to be inked on Wednesday, the two sides will announce their agreement to expand economic cooperation and boost mutual relations.

Mutual economic cooperation in such fields as construction and technology has been envisaged in the document.

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