This Washington Post article, in addition to being an interesting and entertaining read, confirms my immediate suspicions about that shipment of North Korean arms recently interdicted in the Persian Gulf:
Inspectors from the United Arab Emirates quickly swarmed the ship and uncovered a truck-size container packed with small arms made in North Korea. Concealed deeper in the ship was the real find: hundreds of crates containing military hardware and a grayish, foul-smelling powder, explosive components for thousands of short-range rockets.
The nature of the cargo, seized in July and described for the first time in interviews with officials and analysts in the UAE and Washington, has raised fears that Iran is ramping up efforts to arm itself and anti-Israel militias in the Middle East. Israeli officials have warned that they may use force to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
The freighter seized in this port enclave was one of five vessels caught this year carrying large, secret caches of weapons apparently intended for the Lebanese group Hezbollah, the Palestinian organization Hamas or the Quds Force, a wing of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps that supports insurgents in Iraq, according to U.S. and U.N. officials and intelligence analysts. In three cases, the contraband included North Korean- or Chinese-made components for rockets such as the 122mm Grad, which has a range of up to 25 miles and which Hamas and Hezbollah have fired into Israel.
Among the weapons components discovered aboard the ANL Australia were 2,030 detonators for 122mm rockets, as well as electric circuitry and a large quantity of solid-fuel propellant, according to an account given by UAE and U.N. Security Council officials. The materials were bought from North Korea and shipped halfway around the globe in sealed containers, labeled as oil-drilling supplies, that passed through a succession of freighters and ports. [Washington Post]
The supreme irony here may be that it was Christopher Hill who made it his single-minded mission to remove North Korea from the list of state sponsors of terrorism in exchange for a list of predictably broken promises. To reward Hill for this stellar accomplishment, President Obama made him the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, a country where North Korea’s sponsorship of terrorism may very well be killing Americans and Iraqis even today. Christopher Hill should have resigned a long time ago. If any further reason were needed, and as if his lackluster performance in Iraq were not enough, this is yet another reason to call for his head.
The Post goes on to tell us something about the volume of this arms trade and the lengths to which the Axis of Misunderstood Nations goes to conceal it:
The route chosen by North Korea to deliver the rocket components eventually seized by the UAE was hard to track. According to shipping records, the 10 large cargo containers left the North Korean port of Nampo on May 30 on a North Korean vessel, and two days later they were transferred to a Chinese ship in the port city of Dalian, in northern China.
From there, the containers were ferried to Shanghai, where on June 13 they were moved to a third ship, the ANL Australia, a Bahamian-flagged freighter owned by a French consortium. Spokesmen for the freighter’s owner and operator say they received sealed cargo containers along with manifests that listed the contents as oil-well equipment.
By mid-June, the cargo had left Shanghai on the ANL Australia, which followed a meandering course through East and Southeast Asia, pausing in mid-July in Dubai, one of the world’s largest seaports. Then it left on the final leg of its journey, to Shahid Rajai, on the shores of Iran’s Strait of Hormuz.
Speculate for yourself as to why the Chinese didn’t allow an inspection of the cargo in Shanghai. Though hardly conclusive proof by itself, in the context of plenty of other evidence, it’s more reason to suspect that China is trying to help North Korea evade the effect of international sanctions.
The Post’s article strongly suggests that North Korea continues to sponsor terrorism to this very day, probably knowingly. Clearly, President Bush erred when he removed North Korea from the list of state sponsors of terrorism without securing any verifiable assurance that North Korea would end that sponsorship. It was, of course, the broken promise of denuclearization that induced Bush to commit that error, a promise that was obliterated with North Korea’s last nuclear test. Now, President Obama is compounding Bush’s error by not restoring North Korea even after the North makes its sponsorship more flagrant than ever, and even despite North Korea’s use of its official state media as an instrument of terrorism.
The news isn’t entirely bad. This report does give me a good excuse to finally post on some gently pre-owned links about North Korea’s “highly sophisticated international network for the acquisition, marketing and sale of arms and military equipment,” as detailed in a recent report for the U.N. Security Council, the group that brought us resolutions 1695, 1718, and 1874, none of which seems to have dented this sort of activity until this year.
The report said there were “several indications that the DPRK (North Korea) is engaged in trade, transactions and activities proscribed by (U.N.) resolutions … and is seeking to mask these transactions in order to circumvent the Security Council measures.”
The six experts said there were several different techniques employed by the isolated communist state to conceal its involvement.
“These include falsification of manifests, fallacious labeling and description of cargo, the use of multiple layers of intermediaries, ‘shell’ companies and financial institutions to hide the true originators and recipients,” the report said.
“In many cases overseas accounts maintained for or on behalf of the DPRK are likely being used for this purpose, making it difficult to trace such transactions, or to relate them to the precise cargo they are intended to cover.”
The experts said North Korea likely also used correspondent accounts in foreign banks, informal transfer mechanisms, cash couriers “and other well known techniques that can be used for money laundering or other surreptitious transactions.” [Reuters]
Separately, a new report by the Congressional Research Service informs us that Iran buys $2 billion — yes, with a “b” — in North Korean “military equipment” each year, including midget submarines.
Who supposes that this shadowy international proliferation racket only came into being after Agreed Framework II finally fell apart, or after North Korea was removed from the terror-sponsor list?
Related: Did you know that back in 1982, China gave Pakistan enough enriched uranium for two bombs? If that’s so, isn’t it plausible that China or Pakistan did the same for North Korea?