On Sunday, December 13th, The Guardian of the UK reported that North Korea was caught smuggling arms through an underground weapons trade network. The weapons that were discovered in an aircraft’s manifest, which was supposed to deliver ‘oil-drilling equipment.’ The weapons that were found were not nuclear of nature or seemed to be products that could create a bomb but this is still incredibly significant – any black-marketed arms being sold between countries acting as an underground arms trade network is incredibly disconcerting and worrisome. The plane that was discovered and searched in Thailand was found to be carrying items such as: rocket-propelled grenades, missile and rocket launchers, missile tubes, surface-to-air missile launchers, spares and other heavy equipment.
A lethal cargo of rocket launchers, grenades and other weapons seized in Thailand at the weekend may be just a glimpse of what US and UN investigators say is a global North Korean illegal arms smuggling network used to finance its proscribed nuclear weapons programme.
Authorities in Bangkok said today it was unclear where the plane carrying the 35-tonnes of arms, an Ilyushin IL-76 registered in Georgia, was heading. But suspicion immediately fell on Iran, the destination of a previous illegal weapons shipment impounded in the United Arab Emirates in July. Panitan Wattanayagorn, a Thai government spokesman, said the plane had initially planned to refuel in Sri Lanka. For unknown reasons, the crew asked to make an emergency landing in Bangkok on Friday. Sri Lanka denied any knowledge of the arms shipment. There was also speculation in Bangkok that it was destined for Pakistan or Afghanistan.
Thai officials, who detained four crewmen from Kazakhstan and one from Belarus, said they acted on tip-offs from US and other unnamed intelligence agencies that the plane was carrying North Korean-made weapons in contravention of a UN security council ban on arms exports. The ban was strengthened in June, after North Korea’s isolated regime test-fired ballistic missiles and detonated a nuclear bomb.
The same types of countries who many have suspected of being in ‘cahoots’ for some time, have finally shown that they are in fact engaged in an arms trading network with the final destination possibly being Iran. North Korea just wants to stay afloat and make money, estimated to be nearly $1B via this type of arms trading, while Iran has other sinister reasons for being the Point of Destination (POD).
The Japanese have also been investigating this very precarious case of illicit arms trade. What were the main findings of this investigation? (h/t from Freeper AmericaninTokyo with good analysis)
1. The Japanese TV crew got in close during interrogation of the foreign crew of this aircraft. The Japanese zeroed in, using telephoto lenses, on the Thai police confession sheets that the men were apparently been given to sign (that they were trafficking in weapons).
2. The crew zoomed in on the attached BILL OF LADING issued for the cargo in question.
3. The BILL OF LADING was issued by AIR KORYO the national flag carrier for North Korea (and used in the past for espionage and smuggling).
4. The crews then went over to the Air Koryo sales office in Bangkok and burst into the door, confronting a North Korean local employee, showing him video of what they had taken. He got nervous, angry, showed them the door and only said “this must be a fake document. That is not ours”.
5. Meanwhile, the crew said they were heading for Ukraine with the massive cargo of weaponry. However, the Japanese TV crew was at it again, they got a close look at the Bill of Lading with the destination, filmed it, and re-aired it. It was clearly handwritten in English on the sheet “MEHRABAD AIRPORT” (Teheran),فرودگاه مهرآباد (IATA Code: THR) is an airport that serves Teheran, Iran. This airport is close to the city center of Teheran and is not used widely for commercial international arrivals and departures, and is also shared by the Iranian military.
6. Japanese crews called Iran in Farsi and grilled personnel of Mehrabad Airport but they also denied that such an aircraft was heading or scheduled to head to their airport, and seemed perturbed by the call.
7) The same Japanese TV network’s female reporter stationed to NYC on the same day “ambushed” the senior North Korean chief to the United Nations as he got out of his limousine going into the DPRK Office. She chased after him and said “North Korea was involved in the weapons shipment, and it is violation of UN sanctions, isn’t that correct?”. The North Korean diplomat ignored her completely, looked VERY pissed off, and stormed inside a building without saying a thing.
8) The Japanese crew not only called the airport in Iran to get details, they got ahold of the stipulated RECIPIENT in Iran at the airport on the Air Way Bill who was supposed to receive the weapons. They had his telephone number and called him directly, talking and grilling him in Farsi. He denied everything but you could tell of his shock and anger.
Summary of cargo at this time:
Multiple rocket launchers – two mobile units – and two dozen 240 mm unguided rockets. The total value of weapons found in 145 large boxes that weigh nearly 40 tons all up was estimated at around Baht 600 million.No nuclear munitions or weapons of mass destruction were found on board.
I find it very interesting that North Korea also announced that it would be banning foreigners from their country until February. This announcement was made before the media began reporting on the illegal trading network. North Korea exclaims that it is banning people from entering the country due to paranoia that there will be a mass exodus of the middle class due to reforms occurring in their currency system (sound familiar?):
North Korea reportedly plans to ban foreigners from the country from Sunday until early February, apparently to allow unrest caused by this month’s shock currency reform to die down.
Ju Sang-song, the minister of People’s Security, is in China, according to the North’s Korean Central News Agency, though it gave no reason for his visit. The trip by the North’s top internal security official may aim to seek cooperation from Beijing in preventing a mass exodus of North Korean middle class citizens angry over the devaluation of their savings.
One source in China said that Pyongyang would bar foreigners from entering the country temporarily at the end or beginning of a year, when customs officials along the border with China are on leave for year-end holidays, but banning them until February is “quite uncommon.”
Experts say this could herald a visit by Kim Jong-il to China, since the paranoid North Korean leader likes to ensure maximum security along the route of his special armored train. Chinese President Hu Jintao invited Kim to visit at a “convenient” time when he met Choi Tae-bok, the chairman of the North’s Supreme People’s Assembly, in October. Kim has visited China four times, and twice (in 2001 and 2006) they fell in January.
It would seem to me that there is much more for Kim Jong-il to be concerned about now that the latest scandal has broken through to the surface.
So what does a dictator, who instigates missile launches, participates in illegal arms trading, and treats his DVD collection better than his people get? A letter from our one and only president, Barack Obama. That’s right, the ‘oh-so’ intelligent, Harvard elitist, with tons minimal amounts of foreign policy experience wrote Kim Jong-il a letter. This is reminiscent of Carter’s letter to Khomeini – even George Bush and Bill Clinton took their time when writing to ‘Lil’ Kim, which was done after negotiations concluded, not before, or just for the heck of it.
President Obama has written a personal letter to North Korean leader Kim Jong Il that was delivered by the administration’s special envoy for North Korea during a visit to Pyongyang last week.
The existence of the letter has been closely held, with the administration insisting to its partners in disarmament talks with North Korea that it not be publicly discussed. State Department and White House officials confirmed this week that envoy Stephen W. Bosworth delivered a letter from Obama for Kim, but they declined to describe its contents.
“We do not comment on private diplomatic correspondence,” said White House National Security Council spokesman Mike Hammer.
Wait a second, wasn’t this president supposed to be the most transparent president ever? Seems like the only thing transparent is his need to align himself with dictators and enemies… I’m sure Kim Jong loves pen-pals. It’s now up to us to guess what he wrote to Mr. il; here it goes:
Dear ‘Lil’ Kim,
I loved your role in Team America, I felt that you really had a grasp on how to control and intimidate people. My favorite line from that movie was “You’re Breakin’ My Barrs’ Hans Brix.” Who knows, maybe that will be me once I concede all power to the UN and act as the next Neville Chamberlain.
But in all honesty Kimmy, I’m jealous of the fact that you can command so much power and everybody worships you, if only I could settle down these nasty tea party protesters. How does one obtain 150% approval ratings by the way? Mine is already below 50%. I’m thinking I need some help – you don’t happen to have a little red book that lays out your strategy, do you?
Also, any pointers on controlling the media? I thought I was doing a fairly decent job, but every once and a while, they ask me a real pesky question that I have trouble answering – and don’t get me started on Fox.
Let’s you, me, Fidel, Hugo, Ahmadenijad, & Putin get together real soon for a ‘beer summit.’ The last one I held was a huge success.
Happy Holidays & a Merry Kwanzikadanmas.
Update: NNN News of Japan has recently released live streaming video of the illegal arms found in Thailand being carried by a North Korean aircraft, headed for Iran.
Live stream can be seen here. (Thanks again to the great investigative work by FreeRepublic.com)