Australian-registered ship carrying weapons from North Korea

31 08 2009

ANL_australia_‘Legal check on ANL arms ship’ The Australian (31 Aug. 2009)

THE Rudd government will investigate whether an Australian-registered ship carrying an undeclared cargo of weapons from North Korea, bound for Iran, may have broken Australian laws and violated sanctions.

United Arab Emirates authorities reportedly seized up to 10 container loads of weapons, including rocket-propelled grenades and trigger mechanisms, from the vessel, ANL Australia, when it berthed at Abu Dhabi in mid-July.

The Financial Times quoted UN diplomatic sources at the weekend as saying the weapons had been ordered by an Iranian company with links to the Revolutionary Guards Corps.

Weapons exports from North Korea are strictly prohibited under UN Security Council resolution 1874 and UAE authorities confiscated the containers containing the weapons after the ship berthed, and reported the find to UN authorities.

“Australian laws implementing UN Security Council resolutions apply both in Australia as well as to Australian citizens abroad and corporations anywhere in the world,” a Department of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman told The Australian last night.

Transport Minister Anthony Albanese said Australia took its UN Security Council resolutions seriously. “We are investigating as to whether there have been any breaches of Australian law. If there have been, that will be referred to the appropriate police authorities,” he said.

The government confirmed a number of containers aboard an “Australian-owned Bahamian-flagged vessel were offloaded in the UAE and inspected by Emirati customs officials”.

“We are aware of reports that the goods found were arms and related materials” the department’s spokeswoman said.

Small arms and light weapons were covered by the extended UN sanctions regime covering North Korea, adopted after Pyongyang’s May nuclear test.

The resolution now covers all arms exports from North Korea rather than just the heavy weapons, nuclear materials and missile technologies that were banned by earlier UN Security Council resolutions.

The ANL Australia had taken on the container cargo from a port in north China as part of its regular shipping run via India to the Arabian Gulf. Senior government sources said the containers were loaded by China Shipping and identified after an intensive monitoring operation by international authorities and the Australian government.

The US and its allies closely monitor all shipments out of North Korea as part of the multinational Proliferation Security Initiative aimed at preventing either nuclear material or missile components from leaving the country.

Customs officials boarded the ANL Australia in Abu Dhabi and discovered the weapons cache, which had been listed on a cargo manifest as spare parts.

Under the terms of UN resolution 1874, governments are required to seize and dispose of materials that are in breach of UNSC resolution 1874 and report the seizure to UN authorities.

The ANL Australia is owned by ANL, once Australia’s national shipping line but now wholly owned by French-based CMA CGM.

CMA CGM, France’s biggest container shipping company, controls 370 ships on more than 200 shipping routes, employing 17,000 employees worldwide.

The ANL Australia did not own the shipping containers and was allowed to sail from Abu Dhabi soon after the containers had been offloaded.

The ANL Australia, previously known as Australian Endeavour, is a 47,000-tonne vessel purchased by ANL in 1991. It is owned and operated from Melbourne and is wholly foreign-crewed.

Chris Schultz, general manager of business development at ANL Australia, said to the Sunday Telegraph he was unaware an ANL vessel was involved in any seizure. “This is the first I have heard of it,” Mr Schultz said. He admitted the ship was the property of ANL but refused any further comment.

Shipping Australia (SAL) is surprised at the media storm over the discovery of arms in containers aboard an Australian-owned ship in July. SAL chief executive Llew Russell said it would be surprising if there was any evidence of a link to Australia and Australians on which to base an investigation, other than the ship’s name. “On the information we have, [it has] not been established,” Mr Russell said to Lloyd’s List DCN.

Also see Cargo of North Korea Matériel Is Seized en Route to Iran

and UAE seizes weapons ship from North Korea

Scott Snyder vs. Alejandro Cao de Benos on AlJazeera TV discussing North Korea

23 08 2009

Riz Khan – “Behind North Korea’s Closed Doors” – AlJazeera International TV (30 April 2009)

Director of US-Korea Policy Centre Dr. Scott Snyder vs. KFA President Alejandro Cao de Benos – Part 1

Director of US-Korea Policy Centre Dr. Scott Snyder vs. KFA President Alejandro Cao de Benos – Part 2

Leonid Petrov vs. Gordon Chang on Al Jazeera TV discussing North Korea

21 08 2009

— Part 1  (4 min.)

— Part 2  (9 min.)

The complete footage of this East 101 show (with many more interviews, including Dr. Andrei Lankov’s) is available here…  


No Rush to Talk With North Korea

13 08 2009

By ANDREI LANKOV, The New York Times (August 10, 2009)

Andrei_LankovBill Clinton’s trip to Pyongyang and the release of the American journalists confirmed what many observers have suspected since early July: North Korea is indicating its willingness to re-start talks with the United States . There are reasons why Washington should not rush to the negotiation table immediately, but few people doubt that these talks will start relatively soon.

The negotiations are likely to be characterized as talks about getting the North to give up its nuclear weapons. But one should not be misled: No amount of diplomatic dealing can achieve that goal.

North Korea’s leaders have good reasons to retain their nuclear program. First, they need a deterrent against foreign attack. Second, they need nuclear arms for domestic purposes: The nuclear weapons program is perhaps the only visible success of Kim Jong-il’s rule. (It also serves as a helpful excuse for the regime’s economic calamities).

But, above all, the nuclear program is a powerful diplomatic tool. North Korea cannot survive without foreign aid, which the regime uses to support those social groups whose loyalty is vital for internal stability. And nothing can rival a latent nuclear threat as means to obtain foreign aid.

It is often argued that North Korea might choose to surrender its nuclear weapons in exchange for a massive aid program. But Pyongyang cannot use the aid to kick-start its economy, because its leaders believe that economic reforms will be politically ruinous. Chinese-style reforms require a great deal of political liberalization. The spread of information about South Korea ‘s economic success and political freedom would deliver a mortal blow to the regime’s legitimacy.

In this situation, the most rational policy choice of the tiny Pyongyang elite is to avoid domestic reforms, keep interaction with the outside world at a bare minimum and, of course, engage in nuclear blackmail. The regime can alternate threats with hints at a possible solution, and even make promises of a complete de-nuclearization at some future point. The North has played this game for nearly two decades, with remarkable success.

As long as the country remains under the current regime’s control, negotiations are not going to produce a non-nuclear North Korea. Nevertheless, there are at least four major reasons why North Korea should be engaged.

First, some useful compromises are achievable. It is possible to devise an agreement that would diminish the likelihood of nuclear proliferation by Pyongyang . After all, North Korean leaders understand that their current stockpile of weapons-grade plutonium is sufficient as a deterrent and blackmail tool, so additional production would not make much difference. They might even agree to demolish their Yongbyon research facilities, if the promised payoff is sufficiently high.

Second, talks lessen tensions and decrease the likelihood of a confrontation. Of course, Pyongyang diplomats might at any time resort to their favorite trick: Walk away from negotiations, launch a chain of provocations to increase tensions, and then return to negotiations in expectations of greater payoffs. But while talks are continuing, an accidental confrontation is less likely.

Third, talks will provide a line of communication that might become vital, since big changes are looming in Pyongyang : Recent photos leave no doubt that Kim Jong Il’s health has deteriorated considerably.

Perhaps the most important reason why Pyongyang should be engaged is the long-term domestic impact of talks. Negotiations and aid create an environment where contacts between the isolated population and the outside world steadily increase, exposing the total lie in which North Koreans have to live. In the long run, this will undermine the regime, bringing the country’s radical transformation – and, probably, a solution of the nuclear issue.

Nonetheless, future talks should be conducted without unrealistic expectations. There will be no breakthrough as long as the present regime runs the country. To keep Pyongyang engaged, something has to be given, but excessive generosity is not advisable: It will merely provoke more exercises in blackmail. There also is no need to hurry. It’s time to realize that the North Korean problem has no quick fixes, but it can – and should – be managed.

* Andrei Lankov is an associate professor at Kookmin University in Seoul and the author of several books about North Korea .