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Thailand Detains Cargo Plane for Carrying NK Arms

Posted December. 14, 2009 09:30,   


Thai authorities have detained an Eastern European cargo plane for carrying weapons made by North Korea, news reports said yesterday.

The flight left Pyongyang Friday, a day after Stephen Bosworth, U.S. special envoy for North Korea policy, returned home after holding the first North Korea-U.S. talks since the launch of the Obama administration.

After searching the aircraft following a tip from U.S. intelligence, Thai officials seized 35 tons of weapons contained in 12 boxes. The seizure reflects the full adoption of the U.S. “two-track approach” of using both dialogue and sanctions under President Lee Myung-bak’s “grand bargain” proposal before North Korea completes denuclearization.

Panitan Wattanayagorn, a vice spokesman for the Thai government, said yesterday, “The cargo aircraft that left Pyongyang asked for permission to land at Don Muang Airport for refueling.”

The New York Times quoted him as saying Thai authorities confirmed in an inspection after landing that the aircraft carried weapons including components such as tube, shoulder-launched rockets and rocket-propelled grenades (RPG).

The seized weapons were moved to a military base in the nearby province of Nakhon Sawan, he added. Five flight attendants including the pilot have been detained and are being questioned.

The detained aircraft Ilyushin Il-76 is of Georgian nationality with the registration code 4L-AWA.

The Bangkok Post said four of the five flight attendants are from Belarus while the remaining one is from Kazakhstan.

The decisive factor behind the seizure was a U.S. intelligence provision based on U.N. Security Council Resolution 1874, which defines sanctions against North Korea.

A Thai air force official told Reuters Saturday on the condition of anonymity that Washington requested inspection of the aircraft and cargo. The U.S. Embassy in Bangkok, however, denied knowing anything about the case.

On the final destination of the aircraft, the official said, "We were approached by the United States, seeking our cooperation to examine the suspected plane. It came from North Korea and was heading for somewhere in South Asia, probably Pakistan."