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[Editorial] NK Caught Again for Exporting Weapons

Posted December. 14, 2009 09:30,   


North Korea has been caught yet again for trying to export weapons. The cargo aircraft seized yesterday in Thailand reportedly contained 35 tons of weapons, including missiles and rocket launchers. This shows that the North continues to export weapons in defiance of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1874 passed in June, which bans Pyongyang from exporting all weapons-related material excluding small weapons. The resolution is part of sanctions against the North’s long-range missile program and its second nuclear test.

Another worrisome factor is that the North used an aircraft for weapons transport this time. Pyongyang has apparently used air transport to deceive the world after scrutiny was raised on North Korean ships. In August, the United Arab Emirates seized North Korean weapons in a ship from a third country headed for Iran. A month later, North Korean cargo including body armor was caught in the South Korean port of Busan. Back in June, the North Korean ship Kangnam 1, which was suspected of carrying weapons, had to sail back when an American vessel began tailing it. With its adoption of the air transport method, Pyongyang is playing hide-and-seek with the world both at sea and in the sky.

North Korea is also taking advantage of bilateral talks with the U.S. for exporting weapons. The cargo aircraft detained in Thailand had left Pyongyang two days after Stephen Bosworth, U.S. special envoy for North Korea policy, returned home from his visit to the North Korean capital. The weapons were delivered while Bosworth was in Pyongyang, then the plane took off immediately after he left. North Korea might have expected U.S. surveillance to weaken while Bosworth was in Pyongyang. It is hard to believe that North Korea truly wants to reconcile with the U.S. since it attempted to export weapons behind Washington’s back while bilateral talks were in progress.

U.N. Security Council Resolutions 1718 and 1874 are emergency measures to prevent the North from spreading weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons and missiles. The latest incident shows that the world should never delay sanctions on North Korea and let its guard down. For a nation that sells weapons to whomever it wants, North Korea might be led to believing that exporting WMDs is a profitable business. As seen with Iran, a rouge country that has openly expanded its uranium enrichment program, there is clearly international demand for nuclear weapons and technology.

Fortunately, many nations have actively cooperated in implementing the two resolutions. Thailand seized the Georgian aircraft that carried the North Korean weapons based on a tip from U.S. intelligence. Myanmar also rejected the entrance of Kangnam 1. North Korea seeks to disrupt peace by ignoring U.N. resolutions and continuing the export of weapons, but decisive action from the international community can prevent this.