Category Archive: Iran

May 17

UN report on illegal weapons trade between Iran and North Korea blocked by China.

Are the Chinese protecting North Korea? Or is this a calculated move to avoid backlash for allowing illegal shipments through their country? AP reports:

China blocked the release Friday of a report by U.N. experts accusing North Korea of violating U.N. sanctions that ban the export and import of ballistic missile and nuclear-related items as well as conventional arms and luxury goods.

China’s U.N. Ambassador Li Baodong told reporters after a closed-door meeting of the Security Council to discuss implementation of two rounds of sanctions against the North that Beijing is "still studying that report."

The report by the seven independent experts appointed by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to monitor implementation of sanctions was sent to the 15 Security Council members for their approval by Tuesday morning. Diplomats said China was the only country that objected to its immediate release.

Britain’s deputy U.N. ambassador Philip Parham said there was "pretty broad support" for the report in the council but China had problems with it.

The panel’s first report, in May 2010, was also held up by China, which has close ties to North Korea. It was finally released in November after Beijing dropped its objections.

In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said in a faxed statement that "China is earnest and responsible in implementing Security Council resolutions." She said the panel’s report "does not represent the Security Council’s position" nor the position of the council committee that monitors sanctions against North Korea.

The report, obtained Monday by The Associated Press, said North Korea remains "actively engaged" in exporting ballistic missiles, components and technology to numerous customers in the Middle East and South Asia in violation of U.N. sanctions.

The panel said prohibited ballistic missile-related items are suspected to have been transferred between North Korea and Iran on regularly scheduled flights of Air Koryo and Iran Air, with trans-shipment through a third country that diplomats identified as China.

It also said North Korea has completed — or is about to complete — construction of a second launch site for long-range rockets on its west coast close to Tongchangdong which could be used for ballistic missiles in violation of U.N. sanctions. It said the installations appear "bigger and more sophisticated" than the original site on the east coast used for the 1998, 2006 and 2009 Taepodong missile launches.

The Security Council imposed sanctions against North Korea after its first nuclear test in 2006 and stepped up sanctions after its second test in 2009 to try to derail the country’s rogue nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs. The second round strengthened an arms embargo, authorized ship searches on the high seas for suspected banned items, and ordered an asset freeze and travel ban on companies and individuals involved in the country’s nuclear and weapons programs.

While U.N. sanctions haven’t stopped the North’s ballistic missile and nuclear programs or its arms trading, the panel said, "they have made it more difficult and expensive for the country to pursue these."

But North Korea has exploited loopholes and other vulnerabilities in shipping and transportation practices and has become increasingly sophisticated in establishing shell and front companies and offshore financial agents, and in using multiple affiliates and aliases to mask individuals and companies subject to sanctions, it said.

As an example, the panel said information has recently come to light that Union Top Management, the shell company registered in Hong Kong that chartered an aircraft impounded in Bangkok last December with 35 tons of arms, planned five different fights. The Ilyushin Il-76 cargo plane flying from the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, with the arms was the first flight, it said.

Portugal’s U.N. Ambassador Jose Filipe Moraes Cabral, who chairs the Security Council committee monitoring sanctions against North Korea, told reporters he believes the allegations in the report "are indeed serious."

He said he expects the committee to informally discuss the panel’s findings and recommendations.

According to the panel, North Korea announced several major escalations in its nuclear program during the past year: the weaponization of separated plutonium, revelation of a uranium enrichment program, construction of a light water reactor, and announcement of a program to develop nuclear fusion technology to obtain "safe and environment-friendly new energy."

The panel made 24 recommendations on improving monitoring of sanctions and oversight of their implementation and strengthening measures to prevent the export and import of banned items including enhanced cargo inspections and customs vigilance.

The panel said North Korea should be "compelled" to abandon its uranium enrichment program, saying it believes the government’s aim in starting it was primarily for military purposes. North Korea should also abandon construction of a new light water reactor, which it is using as justification for the uranium enrichment program, it said.

Nothing really new here, aside from the allegations that China has turned a blind eye to the weapon sales between Iran and the DPRK. North Korea has been frequently suspected of, and I would imagine guilty of, selling weapons to Iran, Libya, and Burma. Could an increased round of sanctions from the UN really help in any meaningful way?

Source: Associated Press

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Nov 29

Wikileaks: North Korea provided advanced missiles to Iran


The latest release from Wikileaks depicts over 200,000 diplomatic cables of intelligence gathering from various US embassies. Of particular interest, a cable dated February 24th 2010 revealed the transfer of 19 ballistic missiles from North Korea to Iran. The missile, the BM-25. is a modified Russian design capable of hitting targets 3200km away and has the potential to be armed with a nuclear warhead. It is believed that neither country is able at present time to construct a warhead small enough to arm a missile. You might recall the BM-25 being driven around during the 65th anniversary celebration parade of the Korean Worker’s Party.

Other interesting details from a separate Feb 22nd Wikileaks release are the revelation of political dissent in the form of a bomb on a train from Pyongyang to Beijing. There are also discussions of a “Cash for Corpses” arrangement for the US to retrieve the remains of MIA soldiers from the Korean War in exchange for money to the DPRK. Posted below is the full text of the Feb 22nd leak for posterity.

Monday, 22 February 2010, 08:54
C O N F I D E N T I A L SEOUL 000290
EO 12958 DECL: 02/23/2030
Classified By: Ambassador D. Kathleen Stephens. Reasons 1.4 (b/d).


1. (C) During a February 3 meeting, National Security Adviser Kim Sung-hwan told EAP Assistant Secretary Campbell the ROKG wished to have discussions with Washington about delaying the planned transfer of wartime operation control to Korea. Kim agreed that turbulence in Sino-American relations meant Beijing would be hesitant to call a new round of the Six Party Talks. It was encouraging, however, that veteran DPRK negotiator Kim Gye-gwan was slated to visit Beijing next week. NSA Kim asserted that Kim Jong-il needed to visit China soon in order to get more economic assistance, as the DPRK’s internal situation appeared to be significantly more unstable. NSA Kim acknowledged it was important to reach out directly to key DPJ officials like Foreign Minister Okada and Finance Minister Kan. The North Koreans, Kim said, were clearly using several different channels to “knock on the DPJ’s door.” President Lee may visit a Korean factory in the United States to help sell KORUS to the American public. Kim suggested that President Obama and President Lee pay a joint visit to the Korean War Memorial in Washington to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Korean War. Campbell asked for ROK understanding for U.S. plans to resume MIA remains recovery operations in North Korea. Kim emphasized that President Lee would never “buy” a summit with Pyongyang. End summary.

OPCON Transfer


2. (C) During a February 3 meeting with Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell, ROK National Security Adviser Kim Sung-hwan said he wished to have discussions with the USG on the planned April 2012 transfer of wartime operation control (OPCON) to Korea. Kim agreed with Campbell’s observation that it was important for the Korean public to understand that any change that may be considered concerning OPCON transfer timing, and the U.S. Quadrennial Defense Review, would not diminish America’s commitment to the ROK’s security, and should not be so interpreted. China Unlikely to Call New 6PT Round


3. (C) NSA Kim agreed with Campbell’s observation that the current turbulence in Sino-American relations meant Beijing would be hesitant to call a new round of the Six Party Talks (6PT) anytime soon. Referring to POTUS’ upcoming meeting with the Dalai Lama, Kim said the Chinese were “far too sensitive” about the Tibetan spiritual leader’s meetings with foreign officials. A few years ago, Kim related, the PRC had crudely pressured the ROK government into canceling a planned speech by the Dalai Lama at a Buddhist conference on Cheju Island.

4. (C) NSA Kim said he was encouraged by reports that veteran DPRK negotiator Kim Gye-gwan was slated to visit Beijing next week at the invitation of Chinese 6PT chief Wu Dawei. NSA Kim said he understood Kim Gye-gwan might also visit New York. Campbell noted it was important for the DPRK authorities to hear from the Five Parties that Pyongyang’s attempt to shift the focus from denuclearization to a peace treaty was not working.

KJI China Trip and Deteriorating Conditions Inside DPRK


5. (C) NSA Kim asserted that North Korean leader Kim Jong-il needed to visit China soon in order to get more economic assistance. The PRC was in the process of delivering a portion of the food aid promised during Premier Wen’s visit to the DPRK last fall; approximately 6,000 metric tons (MT) of rice and 20,000 MT of soybeans has been delivered, but the DPRK needed a lot more. The situation inside North Korea, he added, appeared increasingly unstable. The North’s currency replacement had created strong resentment throughout DPRK society, Kim said, adding that DPRK Finance Chief Pak Nam-gi had apparently been sacked. Kim asserted there were credible reports of unrest in the North; according to ROK intelligence sources, DPRK police recently found a bomb on a passenger train en route from Pyongyang to Beijing.

U.S.-Japan Relations


6. (C) Kim concurred with Campbell’s assessment that the DPJ

was “completely different” from the LDP and agreed it was important for the DJP to coordinate with Seoul and Washington as it made preliminary overtures to Pyongyang. The North Koreans, Kim said, were clearly using several different channels to “knock on the DPJ’s door.” Kim acknowledged Campbell’s point that it was important to reach out directly to key DPJ officials like Foreign Minister Okada and Finance Minister Naoto Kan.

FTA Prospects


7. (C) It was the ROK government’s view, Kim said, that there might be a window of opportunity to pass KORUS immediately after the U.S. Congressional elections this fall. Kim added that the ROK Embassy in Washington was working on a possible FTA event for President Lee during his upcoming trip to the United States for the nuclear summit. One idea, Kim explained, was to have President Lee visit a Korean factory to help underscore to the American public that the FTA was about creating jobs in America as well in Korea. Campbell praised ROK Ambassador Han Duck-soo for his public outreach on KORUS and noted that the U.S. business community needed to “stop being lazy” and help get KORUS through Congress.

Korean War Memorial Visit


8. (C) NSA Kim asked if, during the April nuclear summit in Washington, it would be possible to have POTUS and President Lee pay a joint visit to the Korean War Memorial. Campbell acknowledged the powerful symbolism for both the Korean and American audience of such a visit during the 60th anniversary of the Korean War, but cautioned that it would be extremely difficult to arrange during the nuclear summit.

MIA Remains Recovery in North Korea


9. (C) Campbell asked for ROK understanding about the U.S. position on resuming MIA remains recovery operations in North Korea. The USG felt strongly, Campbell explained, that this was an important humanitarian issue. Campbell stressed that the U.S. would coordinate closely with the ROK on the issue to “avoid sending the wrong signal” to the DPRK. Pressed by Kim about paying the North Koreans cash to help recover U.S. remains, Campbell agreed it was distasteful; he noted, however, that the United States had made similar payments to the Burmese and Vietnamese governments to facilitate cooperation on MIA issues.

Prospects for a North-South Summit


10. (C) On prospects for a North-South summit, NSA Kim clarified remarks that President Lee made in an interview with the BBC in Davos. Kim said that, beginning last fall, the ROK has had contact with the DPRK about a summit. The North, however, has demanded that Seoul provide a certain amount of economic aid prior to any summit. That precondition was unacceptable, Kim stressed, noting that the Blue House had emphasized to the ROK press this week that President Lee would never “buy” a summit with the North. STEPHENS


Source: New York Times / The Guardian

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