The Foreign Minister of Israel has become the first government official to openly accuse North Korea of arming terrorists since the U.S. government removed North Korea from the list of state sponsors of terrorism in 2008:
The Israeli foreign minister said on Wednesday that North Korean weapons seized in Thailand last year were headed for Islamist groups Hamas and Hezbollah. [….]
“With huge numbers of different weapons … (it had the) intention to smuggling these weapons to Hamas and to Hezbollah,” Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told a news conference in Tokyo, where he is visiting until Thursday. [Reuters]
North Korea is prohibited from selling any weapons by, inter alia, U.N. Security Council Resolution 1874.
“The cooperation between Syria and North Korea is not focused on economic development and growth but rather on weapons of mass destruction” Lieberman said. In evidence he cited the December 2009 seizure at Bangkok airport of an illicit North Korean arms shipment which US intelligence said was bound for an unnamed Middle East country.
Lieberman said Syria intended to pass the weapons on to the Lebanese Hezbollah militia and to the Islamic Hamas movement, which rules Gaza and has its political headquarters in Damascus.
“This cooperation endangers stability in both southeast Asia and also in the Middle East and is against all the accepted norms in the international arena,” Lieberman was quoted as telling Hatoyama.
Thai officials at the time said that acting on a tipoff from Washington they confiscated about 30 tonnes of missiles, rocket-propelled grenades and other weapons when the North Korean plane landed for refuelling in Bangkok. [AFP]
According to some reports I’ve seen, the Bangkok cargo also included parts for Nodong or SCUD-C ballistic missiles, and man-portable surface-to-air missiles that terrorist groups have used to attempt to shoot down airliners.
Avigdor Lieberman described North Korea, Syria and Iran as a new “axis of evil” during an official visit to Japan today. He accused them of building and spreading weapons of mass destruction, adding that they posed “the biggest threat to world security”.
Mr Lieberman told reporters: “We saw this kind of cooperation only two or maybe three months ago with the North Korean plane in Bangkok with huge numbers of different weapons with the intention to smuggle these weapons to Hamas and Hezbollah. [Times of London]
Yonhap adds this delectable tidbit:
A pay-off years ago by Israel reportedly failed to persuade North Korea to stop shipping weapons to the Middle East.
I’m already wondering when, and how much.
On a related note, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia Kurt Campbell, while in Rangoon to visit Aung San Suu Kyi, has warned Burma to stop buying weapons and WMD technology from North Korea:
The U.S. envoy issued what appeared to be Washington’s strongest warning to date concerning Myanmar’s arms purchases from North Korea, which some analysts suspect includes nuclear technology.
A U.N. Security Council resolution bans all North Korean arms exports, authorizes member states to inspect North Korean sea, air and land cargo and requires them to seize and destroy any goods transported in violation of the sanctions.
Campbell said that Myanmar leadership had agree to abide by the U.N. resolution, but that “recent developments” called into question its commitment. He said he sought the junta’s agreement to “a transparent process to assure the international community that Burma is abiding by its international commitments.”
“Without such a process, the United States maintains the right to take independent action within the relevant frameworks established by the international community,” said Campbell.
He did not explain what the new developments were or what action the U.S. might take, though it has in the past threatened to stop and search ships carrying suspicious cargo from Pyongyang. [AP]
There isn’t much news here for OFK regulars. I speculated after the recent seizures of North Korean weapons off the UAE and at Bangkok last year that a terrorist end-user makes more sense than any other explanation. Iran is already major manufacturer of rocket-propelled grenades. It doesn’t need RPG’s, but it might find plausible deniability useful. Likewise, Iran can buy much more sophisticated anti-aircraft missile systems from Russia for its own use. The weapons’ light and portable nature makes them best suited to the use of terrorist and insurgent groups. The Washington Post has also come to the same conclusion.
President Bush removed North Korea from the list of state sponsors of terrorism on October 11, 2008. President Obama decided not to restore North Korea to the list on February 3, 2010. Discuss among yourselves.