29 Aug 2009

UAE Seizes North Korean Arms Shipment

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ANL Australia

Wall Street Journal reports on a UN leak revealing a month-old event. The appearance of the news story is probably related to a more recent development. It may represent a warning to North Korea, saying in essence, don’t bother sending that loaded container ship out of port, we arranged the seizure of the last one, and we can do it to the one you just loaded, too.

Authorities in the United Arab Emirates recently seized a shipment of military hardware from North Korea aboard a vessel bound for Iran, according to people familiar with the seizure.

The seizure could fuel efforts by the U.S. and other Western powers to push for greater economic sanctions against Tehran, if diplomatic outreach fails.

The equipment included detonators and ammunition for rocket-propelled grenade launchers, according to a diplomat to the United Nations Security Council, but no nuclear-related material.

Their purchase by Iran would violate new U.N. sanctions imposed against North Korea in response to Pyongyang’s test of a nuclear device in May. They would have been legal under earlier sanctions regimes.

According to the Security Council diplomat, the weapons were carried on an Australian vessel, the ANL-Australia, which was flying under a Bahamian flag. According to an Aug. 14 letter sent to the U.N. sanctions committee, the exporting company was an Italian shipper, Otim, which exported the items from its Shanghai office.

“The cargo manifest said the shipment contained oil-boring machines, but then you opened it up and there were these items,” the diplomat said. ANL and Otim officials couldn’t immediately be reached to comment.

The sanctions committee replied to the letter earlier this week, informing the U.A.E. it had an obligation to “seize and dispose” of the weapons. The weapons have been offloaded from the ship, and the ship has been released, according to people familiar with the action.

The seizure took place roughly a month ago, according to an Emirati official. It was earlier reported on the Web site of the Financial Times.

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