/ 24 February 2010

South Africa notifies UN of seized North Korean arms

South Africa has notified the United Nations (UN) Security Council that it recently seized a shipment of North Korean arms bound for the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in violation of UN resolutions, diplomats said on Tuesday.

One diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the South Africans on Monday informed the council’s panel monitoring sanctions imposed on North Korea that spare parts for tanks were seized in November 2009.

Security Council Resolution 1874, which was imposed last June in the wake of North Korea’s underground nuclear test, bans all North Korean arms exports and authorises UN member states to inspect North Korean cargo on land, sea, and air.

The diplomat said experts from the council’s sanctions panel on North Korea has been tasked with probing the case.

Another Western diplomat, who also asked not to be named, said the South Africans acted after being tipped off by a French shipping company that it was ferrying suspicious cargo to the DRC.

An inspection by South African authorities determined that the cargo contained spare parts for T-54 and T-55 tanks, the diplomat added.

Last December, Thai authorities also seized 35 tonnes of sanctions-busting arms from North Korea, including missiles and rocket-propelled grenades, aboard an Ilyushin cargo plane that landed for refueling at Bangkok’s domestic Don Mueang airport.

The five-man crew, which was detained, claimed that they were carrying oil drilling equipment bound for Ukraine.

However a flight plan obtained by investigators showed the plane was bound for Iran, which has denied it was the destination.

The five — a Belarussian pilot and four Kazakh crew — who were initially charged with possessing illegal weapons and ammunition, smuggling weapons and other banned products and failing to report the cache, were deported on February 12. — Sapa-AFP