US Thanks Panama for Arms Shipment Seizure

23 11 2013

Cheongcheongang_Panama(ABC Radio, PM, Brendan Trembath reported this story on Wednesday, November 20, 2013)

MARK COLVIN: The US vice-president, Joe Biden, has thanked Panama for detecting a shipment of Cuban arms bound for the secretive nation of North Korea. Panamanian authorities seized a North Korean ship in July after they found tonnes of military hardware, including two MiG fighter jets, hidden in a cargo of sugar.

There’s a UN arms embargo against North Korea. The discovery sheds more light on the barter trade between North Korea and Cuba and the state of their defences. Brendan Trembath reports.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: On a visit to Panama, the US vice-president, Joe Biden, has thanked the thousands of workers expanding the Panama Canal.

JOE BIDEN: And I look forward to this relationship continuing to grow and prosper. And as a consequence of what you’ve done at the canal, we have the possibility of expanding our economy by hundreds of billions of dollars over the near term.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: If they finish on time, large freighters will be able to navigate the waterway from 2015. The US vice-president has also acknowledged a less desirable type of trade through the Panama Canal. He’s thanked Panamanian authorities for the seizure in July of a North Korean-flagged ship packed with Cuban military hardware.

Both the Cuban and North Korean governments have said the arms were obsolete and being shipped to North Korea for refurbishment. But the Communist allies did not explain why two MiG fighters were buried under more than 200,000 sacks of sugar.

Dr Leonid Petrov is a Korean studies researcher at the Australian National University.

LEONID PETROV: And I believe that it’s happened because North Korea simply feels they are cornered, they are being watched. They are paranoid, and they’re trying to disguise any possible activity with the outer world.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: Can you read into the types of aircraft seized? Does it suggest anything about the state of the North Korean military?

LEONID PETROV: The state of North Korean military is not particularly great. The lack of fuel, particularly, for aircraft keeps its air force in the under-trained state of condition. I believe that North Koreans need more training to be more efficient in operations in any branch of their military, depending whether it’s air force, naval or army.

They have a very huge fleet of submarines, probably largest in the world. But in terms of air force and particularly these MiG-15, MiG-17 and MiG-21 aircraft, they were used during the Korean War, 60 years ago. Of course, they have been already outmoded, outdated. They don’t pose any strategic threat but can pose a danger of a suicidal mission or it may be used as a delivery kind of vehicle for a small, compact nuclear device if needed.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: There are no signs North Korea is about to engage in talks on its nuclear program.

LEONID PETROV: The Six-Party Talks are dead and buried. I personally never believed in the Six-Party Talks, simply because there are too many parties in the Six-Party Talks process. And the main obstacle for the resumption of Six-Party Talks, well, regardless of how efficient they might be, I think that, and it’s pretty clear, that Washington, Seoul and Tokyo simply refuse to go back to the negotiating table.

MARK COLVIN: ANU academic and frequent visitor to North Korea, Dr Leonid Petrov, with Brendan Trembath.

Listen to the audio file here…

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South Korean spy arrested in Pyongyang

8 11 2013

north korean police car(BY OLIVER HOTHAM , NKNews.org, NOVEMBER 7, 2013A South Korean spy has been apprehended in Pyongyang, the North Korean Ministry of State Security announced to the Korea Central News Agency on Thursday. The man, who initially claimed to be a Chinese resident of North Korea, eventually confessed that he was a South Korean who had entered North Korea from a third country, the KCNA said, and had been disguising himself as a “religionist”.

KCNA reported that the Ministry of State Security’s initial investigation indicated “that he was engaged in anti-DPRK espionage and plot-breeding activities in a third country bordering the DPRK for nearly six years”. The spy allegedly “entered the DPRK to rally dishonest elements within the boundary of the DPRK and use them for undermining the stability of the social system in the DPRK,” according to the report, and the “an institution for state security is now intensifying investigation”.

[…] This is not the first time the DPRK has alleged that religious missionaries in the DPRK were engaging in anti-state activities. Kenneth Bae, who was arrested in November 2012 when he was acting as a missionary in North Korea, was sentenced to 15 years hard labour for an alleged plot to overthrow the North Korean state called “Operation Jericho”.

The KCNA’s article on Bae’s trial reported that: ”When last in America and South Korea, Kenneth Bae went to several churches and preached about the need for North Korea’s immediate collapse.” North Korea claims Bae had a following of “1,500 people,” and worked with other South Korean missionaries to create an “anti-government coalition.”

Leonid A. Petrov, a Korean studies expert at the Australian National University told NK News that it is natural for spy-related stories to come out: “States and nations divided by civil war always spy against each other – it would be strange if North and South Korea, who share the language and culture, were not doing the same”.

“Both regimes claim exclusive legitimacy on the peninsula and won’t compromise,” he continued. “Spying operations of Seoul and Pyongyang against each other will cease only when Korea is unified, but this would also mean a victory for one and the demise for another regime”.

North Korean spies are often caught in the Republic of Korea. In 2010 DPRK spies were dispatched – and caught – trying to kill high level defector Hwang Jang Yop.

See the full text of this article here…