Brian McCartan, a freelance journalist based in Bangkok, has written an exceptionally detailed account of what is know and not known about the North Korean weapons seized in Bangkok. All of the many details McCartan relates are consistent with the better reporting I’ve read in the Wall Street Journal and elsewhere, but there is one thing in this article that I hadn’t read anywhere else:
A search of the plane’s cargo after a tip-off from US intelligence sources found 35 tonnes of crated weapons inside the fuselage, according to Thai authorities. The haul included large numbers of rocket propelled grenades (RPGs), man-portable surface-to-air missiles, and two mobile multiple-rocket launchers, either M-1985 or M-1991′s, capable of firing 240mm rockets. The weapons were removed by the Thai military to Takhili Air Force base in central Nakhon Sawan, north of Bangkok. Thai authorities estimated the value of the cargo at around US$18 million. The crew, who are likely to be telling the truth, said they believed they were carrying heavy equipment for oil operations.
The next step is for the weapons to be inventoried and reported to the UN’s North Korea Sanctions Committee, which is mandated to investigate violations of the sanctions. Under UN resolutions, the weapons should then be destroyed, although there is some debate in Thailand about whether the weapons will be kept for its armed forces. [Brian McCartan, Asia Times]
I’d urge you to read McCartan’s piece for yourself. It seems well-sourced and carefully written. If that fact is true, the implications ought to be collossal. After all, the most likely destination for the shipment continues to be Iran, and the most likely end-users continue to be Iran’s terrorist clients — Hamas, Hezbollah, and radical militias in Iraq.
The report doesn’t specify what kind of missiles these were. The one I’ve pictured here is a Soviet-designed SA-7, an older type but still capable of bringing down an airliner not equipped with countermeasure flares (as only Israeli airliners tend to be).
President Bush removed North Korea from the list of state sponsors of terrorism on October 11, 2008. Discuss among yourselves.